BY KEITH BIGGS O.D.
Dry eye disease is a condition that is quickly becoming an epidemic. With smart phones and computer usage, dry eye is expected to increase from affecting 26 million Americans to 55 million within 10 years. Dry eye has been shown to affect twice as many women as men. Some of the symptoms associated with this disease include burning, itchy, fatigue, blurred vision, light sensitivity, redness, and a sandy/gritty sensation to the eyes. Another common symptom can be watery eyes. As odd as this may seem, the dryness in the eye will over-stimulate production of tears. As we go through the new year, Summit Eye Care’s focus is on helping patients take control of their dryness.
A normal tear film consists of three layers.
- An oily (lipid) component
- A watery (aqueous) component
- A mucous-like (mucin) component
A problem with any of these sources of tear film components can result in tear instability and dry eyes, and there are different categories of dry eyes, depending on which component is affected. For example, if the Meibomian glands don’t produce or secrete enough oil (meibum), the tear film may evaporate too quickly — a condition called “evaporative dry eye.” The underlying condition — called Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is the most common form of dry eye syndrome. These particular glands are located in the upper and lower eyelid and supply oil to the surface of the eye. When clogged, this can lead to dry eye symptoms.
There are many treatments for Meibomian gland dysfunction. One of the treatments recommended is a good fish oil. The store shelves make it very difficult for patients to select the correct fish oil. This is one product that warrants the phrase “you get what you pay for.” Some of the cheaper fish oils are in a form that the body cannot digest and absorb, known as ethyl ester. The better fish oils are the ones that go through an extra purification process that results in the form “triglyceride.” This is the first thing patients are told when selecting a fish oil. Read your labels, and make sure that it’s a triglyceride form.
Another treatment offered may be in the form of treatment called LipiFlow. LipiFlow is the only FDA-approved device that combines heat with physical massage to liquefy and express the Meibomian gland contents, to help restore the lipid layer of the ocular surface. In a clinical study, 79% of patients reported improved overall dry eye symptoms within four weeks of a single LipiFlow treatment. LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation technology applies heat to the inner eyelids and gentle pressure, releasing lipids from the Meibomian glands. The procedure is fast, virtually painless, and takes place right in a doctor’s office. The process opens clogged oil glands that may be robbing your eye of vital lipids that aid in dry eye.
The doctors at Summit Eye Care are the first private practice doctors in Winston-Salem to treat using LipiFlow technology. Summit Eye Care is set to become regional leaders in treating dry eye using our state of the art equipment. For many people, LipiFlow means relief. LipiFlow treats the leading cause of evaporative dry eye, not just the symptoms. The LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System is a revolutionary way to treat evaporative dry eye caused by Meibomian gland dysfunction. Opening and clearing blocked glands allows the body to resume the natural production of lipids (oils) needed for the tear film. The result may eliminate the uncomfortable symptoms associated with evaporative dry eye.
Join us next month, as we discuss ways to reduce our risk for dry eye and Meibomian gland dysfunction, and help prevent this epidemic before it starts.