There are roughly 30 million people in the United States and over 300 million worldwide who have been diagnosed with dry eye.
Most have learned to live with eye discomfort and have become dependent on drops or other treatment methods that only offer temporary relief. This has been due to a lack of understanding that the root cause of most dry eye (86%) is now known to be a chronic and progressive condition, Meibomian Gland Dysfunction or MGD.
The severity of symptoms can range from just being a minor annoyance to being very uncomfortable or even painful.
Symptoms of Dry Eye can include:
Gritty Sandy Feeling
Foreign Body Sensation
Contact Lens Discomfort
Discomfort -Day end, Early Morning, or Night
Brief Shooting Pain
Factors that can contribute to Dry Eye:
Age Hormonal Changes
Laser Vision Correction
Contact Lens Use
Computer and Electronic Device Use
Environment (arid climate, office buildings)
MGD occurs when there is a compromise to the function and/or structure of the meibomian glands in the eyelids that produce the protective oily layer of the tear film. These glands can become blocked over time and can no longer produce oils needed for healthy tears. This blockage results in rapid evaporation of your tears and can lead to irritation, discomfort. The glands can atrophy and die over time leaving patients without functioning tear producers. Once the glands are gone they are gone forever.
A series of evaluations will be performed to determine if you have MGD. This can include gland imaging and a meibomian gland evaluation. Knowing what is causing your Dry Eye will help us determine the best treatment option.
Therefore the most effective treatments usually concentrate on helping those glands do a better job of producing a nice thin oily layer that sits on top of your tear film and keeps them from evaporating off the eyes too quickly.
1. ARTIFICAL TEARS/EYE DROPS: Traditionally this has been the treatment of choice for dry eye and is still commonly recommended. Use of lubricating drops and gels doesn’t “treat” MGD or dry eye, but they can provide short term relief from dry eye discomfort.
2. OMEGA-3 THERAPY: If used properly Omega-3 supplements can improve the quality and quantity of the tear film. The problem for patients is that not all omega-3 supplements are created equal and some may offer little, if any health benefit or dry eye relief. It is important to talk to your eye care professional about the most effective way to use Omega-3 supplements for dry eye therapy. Even though taking Omega-3s will improve your body’s production of tears, the supplement cannot help blocked oil glands. It may not be sufficient in treating significant MGD.
3. LID THERAPIES: Lid cleansing products, mask heating treatments and blink training are helpful strategies for controlling MGD.
4. PRESCRIPTION EYE DROPS: In many cases prescription eyedrops can be more effective than over the counter artificial tears. Potential negatives include expense and possible side effects of the medications. Also, they need to be used for weeks or months to reach their full effectiveness so they are not a quick fix.
5. PUNCTAL OCCLUSION: In cases of dry eye where the problem is a lack of tearing, punctual occlusion is a strategy that can allow your eyes to keep the tears you have longer by blocking the drainage of your tears away from the eye.
Newest Technology Treatment – Lipiflow for MGD
While there are multiple choices available for treating MGD, LipiFlow is the only FDA-cleared device for removing gland blockages and restoring gland function. Through advances in the application of Vectored Thermal Pulsation (VTPTM) technology, the LipiFlow treatment utilizes a patented algorithm of heat applied to the inner eyelids and massage to remove the obstructions in your meibomian glands.