Purpose: To evaluate the effects of temporary canalicular occlusion with silicone plugs on trachomatous dry eye patients who were on maximal tolerable medical therapy.
Methods: Forty-four trachomatous dry eye patients who had Schirmer testing with topical anaesthetic measuring 5 mm or less and a tear film break-up time of 5 s or less were included. After the lacrimal efficiency test with dissolvable collagen punctal plugs, silicone canalicular plugs were placed in 22 trachomatous dry eye patients. The other 22 patients in the untreated control group were allowed to continue their medical therapy. Pretreatment and post-treatment evaluations included subjective patient assessment, rose Bengal and fluorescein staining, tear film break-up time, Schirmer testing, conjunctival impression cytology and goblet cell counting.
Results: Six months after plug placement, 18 eyes (82%) of 22 patients had subjective improvement and all these patients successfully wore plugs for at least 6 months. There were statistically significant differences between the pretreatment and post-treatment test results including rose Bengal and fluorescein staining scores, tear film break-up times and Schirmer testing measurements. Impression cytology showed improvement of squamous metaplasia in 17 eyes (77%). Eight of the patients (36%) were able to decrease dependency on topical therapy. Ten of the patients (45%) completely stopped using artificial tears. There were statistically significant differences between the two groups in the total symptom scores, staining scores, tear film break-up time, Schirmer testing, impression cytology scores and goblet cell counts.
Conclusion: In cases where topical tear supplementation is insufficient to relieve the signs and symptoms of severe dry eye and the lacrimal puncta have not already been closed by the trachomatous cicatrising process, occlusion of the canaliculi may be useful to prevent drainage of both natural and artificial tears. Canalicular occlusion improves the objective signs and subjective symptoms and may significantly decrease dependency on tear supplements in selected patients.