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You may never have heard of Dry Eye Syndrome. Maybe you believe that having dry eyes is just something that you have to suffer with because of the climate where you live, or because your job requires you to constantly stare at a computer screen.
It is certainly the case that these factors will contribute to your dry eyes. However, severe dry eyes are not just due to environmental factors in most cases. Chronic dry eyes, as they are technically known, often result from causes that go beyond the environment to the complex systems that govern the eye’s lubricating process.
Before we take a look at this process (and at some dry eye treatment options for the problems that arise from the dysfunctions in these processes), let’s get clear about what exactly Dry Eye Syndrome is.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome is a condition characterized by insufficient moisture on the surface of the eye. That is, when you suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome, your eye simply does not retain enough of a tear layer to keep your eye functioning properly.
What Kind of Dry Eyes Symptom Groups are Typical?
For those suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome, there are a certain set of symptoms which they can expect:
- Irritable Dry Eyes: Symptom No. 1 of dry eyes is, of course, having irritable eyes that bother patients especially during dry warm weather and at the end of the work day.
- A dry, itchy, even gritty feeling emanating from the surface of the eyes.
- Inflammation of the eye (called Keratoconjenctivitis when it affects the cornea).
- Burning sensation.
- Phantom foreign object: feeling as if something is under your eyelid when nothing is present.
- Sensitivity to light, especially sunlight.
Before you can understand how chronic dry eyes occur and how things like meibomian gland dysfunction treatment helps, you first must understand how the lubrication of your eye actually works.
How Eyes Normally Stay Moisturized
When your eyes are functioning normally (when you are not suffering from dry eyes), your eyes have a slim 3-layer “coating” of moisture that protects your eyes and keeps them well lubricated. This “coating” is made up of:
- Mucin on the innermost layer, right on the surface of your eye. This slimmest of slices of mucus is created by cells on the transparent skin on the surface of the eye itself (called the cunjunctiva). This layer mainly helps to keep the other layers evenly spread over the eye and is rarely the main source of Dry Eye Syndrome.
- Tears are the middle layer. This section is the central source of moisture on your eyes. Produced by the lacrimal glands, this is the part of your eyes that is most important for keeping your eye comfortable. It also helps to clean out anything that gets into your eye, as you have no doubt experienced when dust or sand has been blown up into your face by the wind.
- Lipids on the outer surface. This layer of oils and fats is created by the meibomian glands and its main function is to protect the lacrimal layer (the middle tear soaked layer that is sandwiched between the mucin and the lipids) from evaporating.
The Main Cause of Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry Eye Syndrome is actually a fairly widespread problem, especially affecting those in the later stages of life (40 or older). There are about 25 million people in the US who are known to suffer from this condition, with women slightly more prone to it than men.
Most people who suffer from very dry eyes, assume that the problem is with their lacrimal layer. This is a logical assumption since, after all, the layer of tears is the part of the eye that is most responsible for keeping the eye moist. In fact, however, only about one in five sufferers of chronic dry eyes can attribute their dry eyes to problems with the lacrimal glands.
As it turns out, however, the real culprit for those with severe dry eyes is the meibomian glands rather than the lacrimal glands. This is important, because many people erroneously try to treat the problem in the lacrimal glands which is actually originating in the meibomian glands.
The meibomian glands as you may recall, create the lipid layer that protects the lacrimal layer from evaporating. When the meibomian glands become blocked, however, this protective layer doesn’t do its job and the lacrimal layer dries out, thus creating the symptoms of dry eyes with which so many of us are familiar.
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Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Treatment
Luckily for those of us who are suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome, there is now a treatment that offers a quick, effective treatment for dry eyes caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. The treatment is called Lipiflow and it goes straight to the source of the problem, the malfunctioning meibomian glands.
Through a painless process involving warmth and pulsate pressure the Lipiflow devise helps clear and stimulate the meibomian gland, revitalizing the gland and helping to spur it to start producing lipids again. Most patients experience an immediate improvement in their eyes from the moment they leave their ophthalmologists’ offices; they also continue to see improvement for up to one-year afterwards.
How does the LipiFlow treatment work?
When you come into a Los Angeles Dry Eye Therapy office to get your chronic dry eye treatment, the first thing your ophthalmologist will do is to determine the cause of your chronic dry eyes. As we have said, in up to roughly 80% of patients, the meibomian gland is at the source of the problem, but Dry Eye Syndrome can also be caused by a number of other factors as well. For example:
- Lacrimal Gland Dysfunction: Yes, even though the meibomian gland is a more common source of problems, the lacrimal gland too can have problems which lead to dry eyes.
- Damage to the Eye: Damage to the eye can sometimes lead to chronic dry eye problems.
- Lasik Surgery: It is somewhat under-reported, but Lasik surgery can sometimes damage the nerves of the eye and lead to either the occurrence of very dry eyes for the first time, or can make a pre-existing dry eye condition into a case of extremely dry eyes.
- Side Effect of Medications: Some medications—especially antihistamines—can lead to extremely dry eyes as well.
Testing Your Dry Eyes for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
In order to diagnose the source of your dry eye problem so that he or she can provide the proper dry eye remedy, your ophthalmologist will have to test the consistency of your tears and the health of your meibomian gland. This test, known as a Schirmer test is conducted by placing a thin strip of paper inside the lower eyelid. The level of moisture deposited on the paper indicates whether Dry Eye Syndrome is present.
Typically the treatment begins with a set of tests to make sure that you actually have dry eyes due to Meibomian Gland Dysfunction. To find out, our experienced Los Angeles Dry Eye Therapy ophthalmologist will use the LipiFlow Ocular Surface Interferometer to take high resolution photos of you meibomian glands.
Your ophthalmologist may also do a few other tests including examining your eyes with a “slit lamp” (a type of specialized microscope) which will measure the thickness and abundance (or scarcity) of the lacrimal film layer.
A break-up test may also be used to assess how “stable” your tear layer is, and a conjunctiva test may be used to see if you innermost line of eye defense is overly dry.
Your ophthalmologist may also use a yellow dye called fluorescein to “stain” you cornea so they can see whether the cells located there (known as the epithelial cells) have been damaged because of lack lacrimal protection. (Other possible dyes used are a red dye, “Rose Bengal,” to determine whether you have dead conjunctiva cells; and Lissamon Green, which also is used on both the conjunctiva and the cornea.)
The LipiFlow Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Treatment
The actual dry eyes treatment created by LipiFlow is short and painless. The LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation device is connected to your eyes via eye pieces. One eye is usually done at a time. The eyepiece does two things: delivers heat to the upper eyelids and delivers a low level pulsation to the lower lid.
The combination helps clear the meibomian glands and restore their function.
The process only takes a total of 12 minutes per eye. Those who having undergone the procedure report no pain and only a mild discomfort if any discomfort at all. Patients are free to go back to their regular schedules right after the procedure is over.
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How Effective is LipiFlow as Compared to Other Dry Eye Remedies?
Across the internet you will find a number of LipiFlow reviews singing the praise of LipiFlow and what it has done for dry eye sufferers around the country and world. For many, LipiFlow has made a significant change in their lives. Here are some of the positive results patients report:
- The complete restoration of normal eye function: decreased redness, almost total reduction of irritation.
- No further need for eye drops.
- Regained ability to go out in the daylight without the need for sunglasses except on the sunniest of days.
- Fewer problems with dry eye symptoms due to environmental conditions like heat or the dry Santa Anas.
- Greater longevity at work, without the symptoms of eye strain.
- A general sense of greater well-being in terms of their eyes.
But, of course, you should decide on more than just online LipiFlow reviews.
Let’s consider the science:
Research shows that the effects of the LipiFlow treatment are immediate and significant. Patients report a marked improvement in eye comfort and moisture. Over time as the meibomian glands return to a more normal active state, patients actually continue to improve for up to one year after their treatments. 4 of 5 patients report a marked improvement over their previous condition.
Other Dry Eye Remedies
LipiFlow is a relatively new option for treating dry eyes. Before LipiFlow, many patients attempted to self-treat themselves in their own homes through a series of home dry eye remedies. Many sufferers of Dry Eye Syndrome for example, use humidifiers in their homes to slow down the evaporative process. Similarly, many of those who suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome avoid the use of air conditioners and heaters because they have just the opposite effect.
Some patients find that applying hot compresses to their eyes and rubbing has a positive effect on their lipid layers because they help to break up bacteria and stimulate the meibomian glands. (You might think of this as a home version of the LipiFlow treatment. It is not quite as effective, but for some patients it has done the trick.)
Artificial Tears, gels and the ever popular eye drops also help keep eyes moist, so long as you are willing to persistently apply these to your eyes.
For those with especially severe dry eyes, eye ointments have been the treatment of choice because they are longer lasting and thus require fewer applications.
Many, of course, simply choose to live with the dryness, frequently resting their eyes and hoping dry, warm weather would not last much longer.
You however, need not leave your eye health up to the whims of the weather.
Where can Someone Suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome Get Help?
Although not every ophthalmologist has the LipiFlow device yet, there are a number of locations in California (and throughout the country, actually) where you can receive the life-changing LipiFlow treatment.
Here in Southern California, Los Angeles Dry Eye Therapy centers specialize in the LipiFlow treatment.
Our centers offer you state of art exam rooms and brand new LipiFlow devices operated by trained LipiFlow experts. Just check out our locations for the site nearest you.
You owe it to you and your eyes so contact one of our offices today and get the relief you and your eyes deserve.