By Johnson City Eye Clinic
Johnson City Eye Center is now offering an innovative new treatment for dry eye sufferers. If you are experiencing eye dryness, irritation, light sensitivity, vision fluctuations, contact lens intolerance and eye fatigue, you may be a candidate for the state-of-the-art treatment, Lipiflow®.
What causes dry eyes?
The surface of the eye is covered in a lining of tears called the tear film. The tear film is made up of three layers: the Lipid (oil) layer which lubricates and prevents evaporation of the tears, the Aqueous (water) layer, which nourishes and protects the eye surface, and the Mucin layer, which adheres to the eye. Since the tear film is exposed directly to the air, the protective lipid layer is essential to maintaining a healthy tear film on the eye. When the protective lipid layer of the tear film is deficient, the eye surface can become irritated and dry eye symptoms occur.
The majority of millions of dry eye sufferers in the U.S. have Evaporative Dry Eye, which stems from a deficiency in the oily lipid layer of the eye’s tear film. Evaporative Dry Eye is most often caused by a blockage or obstruction of the Meibomian or eyelid glands, which produce the lipid layer of the tear film. Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is a real disease that results from the formation of plugs inside the glands, obstructing gland openings and limiting the lipid secreted by the glands into the tears. These conditions are extremely uncomfortable for 30 million Americans and that number is growing! Some of the more common causes include contact lens wear, gender (women are at greater risk), medications, antihistamines in particular, age, hormones, prolonged screen time or reading, low humidity, high winds and many post-LASIK patients.
What is Lipiflow® and how does it work?
The Lipiflow® System is an FDA approved medical device that is used to apply warmth and gentle massage to the eyelids allowing the lipids from the blocked eyelid glands to flow into the tear film. Your doctor will determine if the Lipiflow® System is an appropriate treatment option for you based on a complete exam of your eye health, including evaluation of blocked glands and associated dry eye symptoms.
For the treatment, you will be comfortably reclined in the exam chair and a numbing drop will be put into your eyes. The activator device will then be positioned on the eye, similar to a contact lens, but it does not touch the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye). The Lipiflow® System directs controlled warmth 10 degrees above the normal body temperature, while it applies a precise massage to the outer eyelid surface to remove the obstruction and debris and release oils from the Meibomian glands into the tear film. You will be asked to close your eyes gently around the eyepiece and keep them closed. At this point, the Lipiflow® will be activated, and you will then begin to feel gentle pressure and warmth on your eyelids. The treatment time is under 30 minutes, and there will be someone with you to monitor the entire process. There are NO needles!
Unlike traditional treatments (warm compresses, wetting drops and ointments) used to address dry eye symptoms, Lipiflow® treats the root cause, the obstructed Meibomian glands. If left untreated, dry eye can lead to further ocular deterioration and additional problems. The goal of unblocking the glands is to allow them to resume their natural production of lipids required for a healthy tear film.
Talk to your eye doctor about the benefits, safety and risks of Lipiflow®. The Lipiflow® system should not be used in patients that have recently had eye surgery, eye injury, herpes of the eye or chronic eye inflammation. Possible side effects from Lipiflow® are minimal, and clinical studies tell us that the positive results of this treatment average from 12 to 36 months—with ONE treatment. MGD however, can be a chronic and progressive disease requiring additional Lipiflow® treatments.
If dry, itchy, red, and watery eyes are hindering you from the activities you love, talk with your eye doctor about Lipiflow®.