If you’re one of the nearly 30 million Americans who suffer from a chronic dry eye condition, you know what it feels like for eyes to be dehydrated, irritated, burning, gritty and strained. Some cases of dry eye are caused by certain diseases like thyroid disease and diabetes, or long-term or improper use of contact lenses, but the vast majority (nearly 90%) are due to a condition known as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, or MGD, a malfunction of the oil-producing glands in the eyelids. You see, tears aren’t just water – they’re a sophisticated multilayered film that lubricates the eye, washes away dust and bacteria, keeps the cornea flexible so it can effectively refract light, and helps eyelids glide smoothly over eyeballs. With MGD, the glands become blocked, preventing the eye’s protective oil from reaching the surface of the eye and throwing tear film off balance. This is why some cases of dry eye invite excess tearing, but no lasting relief from dryness.
Left untreated, chronic dry eye can create or aggravate other problems, including a condition called blepharitis, inflammation of the eyelids in which bacteria proliferate along the lids and eyelashes. Blepharitis can cause white or yellowish dandruff-like flakes on the lashes, red, swollen eyelids, a foreign body sensation in the eye, and a greater vulnerability to eyelid infections like styes and chalazia. It is estimated that more than 30% of adults suffer at least some degree of blepharitis, but have symptoms mild enough to be ignored, allowing blepharitis to continue unchecked, often growing worse over time. Dry eye promotes blepharitis and blepharitis promotes dry eye, so the two in tandem are especially troublesome. Both conditions can be managed to the point where symptoms are decreased and disease progress slowed or even halted.
Effective treatment for dry eye and its symptoms requires an accurate diagnosis, beginning with a multifaceted assessment by your Lake Eye doctor. He or she will examine your eyes’ osmolarity, which measures ocular surface and tear film health, and test for MGD using the most sophisticated and accurate test for the disorder, the LipiScan™ system. Dry eye testing is quick and comfortable, and available at every Lake Eye office. Because your eye doctor can diagnose the cause of your dry eye condition during your appointment, treatment can be implemented or scheduled immediately.
Mild to moderate cases of dry eye can often be treated with nutritional supplements such as HydroEye®, which soothes the ocular surface and encourages a healthy tear film, prescription eye drops such as Restasis® or Xiidra®, and supplemental treatments like Oasis eye masks, drops and cleansers that help calm irritation and promote hydration. Used alone or in combination, these products are often sufficient to provide ongoing relief in less serious cases.
MGD often results in more severe cases of dry eye, and, until recently, there were no actual treatments to address the disorder itself. Happily, there is now a patented treatment called LipiFlow®, an FDA-approved external device that uses a combination of heat and massage to gently remove blockages from the meibomian glands so they can more readily secrete a healthy lipid layer onto the eye surface. Most patients find that a single LipiFlow treatment can slow or stop the progression of MGD and alleviate symptoms for up to two years, safely and without drugs or surgery.
For blepharitis, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic ointment for you to apply to your lash-line before bedtime, or an oral antibiotic for severe cases. For lasting results, your doctor may suggest BlephEx™, a patented device that utilizes a rotating medical-grade micro-sponge that gently but thoroughly spreads a special antibacterial cleanser along the lash line to remove debris, skin mites and the bacterial biofilm associated with chronic eyelid inflammation. BlephEx treatment takes only minutes and works to help relieve symptoms and prevent further damage to tear glands. Regular BlephEx treatments (usually every 4 to 6 months) and recommended at-home care can allow many patients to remain free of symptoms.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry eye and/or blepharitis, don’t wait for conditions to become worse – a single easy appointment with your Lake Eye doctor can address symptoms, promote clearer vision, prevent infection and help thwart your condition from becoming worse. After all, your eyes work hard for you – quench them with love.
352-775-1533 . LakeEye.com