Bring Tears To Your Eyes

New treatment ‘melts’ away substance clogging eyelid’s oil glands.

Wilma Kostick and Dr. Alexandra Kostick in the doctor's office

Wilma Kostick and her daughter, Dr. Alexandra Kostick

If you travel a few miles outside of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and look out over the vast horizon on a clear summer night, there’s a good chance you’ll see both the Milky Way and the natural phenomenon known as the aurora borealis.

In the summertime, Winnipeg is a stargazer’s and outdoorsman’s paradise. Unfortunately, Winnipeg summers don’t last very long. The winters, meanwhile, are brutal, with temperatures regularly dipping well below zero and snow falling from September to June.

“And sometimes that snow piles so high you cannot get out of your house,” says Wilma Kostick. “I remember a lot of days when it was 40 below (zero) and there was eight to 10 feet of snow on the ground.”

Days like that are why Wilma, a former psychology teacher, psychologist and longtime Winnipeg resident, finally followed in her daughter’s footsteps and moved to Florida. That was in 1996. Not long thereafter, Wilma developed an aggravating eye issue.

Known as meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD, the condition is caused by blockages in the eyelid’s oil glands. These blockages limit the secretion of certain oils that help tears moisten the eyes and keep them free of debris.

Similar to dry eye syndrome, where inadequate amounts of tears are produced, MGD can cause stinging and burning of the eyes. It can also make the simple blink of an eye feel like someone is rubbing sand paper across your eyeballs.

“It’s so bad that sometimes you just want to sit with your eyes closed,” Wilma laments. “And that obviously affects a lot of areas of your life.

“I love to read and do crossword puzzles, but you don’t feel like doing that when you have dry eyes. It’s just too painful. Even watching TV or a movie was difficult. I don’t drive very much, but it was very hard to drive, too. It’s just awful.”

MGD and dry eye disease are chronic conditions, but there are a number of treatments that can be used to minimize their symptoms. The objective when treating MGD is to clear the blocked glands. The goal when treating dry eye disease is to produce more tears.

Wilma had tried nearly all of the treatments available for MGD. None provided long-term relief. That’s why her daughter, Alexandra Kostick, MD, FACS, FRCSC, of Atlantic Eye Center recently added a new treatment to her arsenal in the fight against the ailment.

“I liken it to getting your teeth cleaned. You usually get that done twice a year. This treatment is similar in that way.” – Dr. Kostick

The treatment is called TearCare®. It can be used to treat MGD, dry eye disease and blepharitis, an inflammation of the glands of eyelids often caused by allergies, and it can be completed in as little as 15 minutes in the doctor’s office.

“People who have MGD are not producing an oil, they’re producing something that’s more like a cheesy substance or toothpaste,” Dr. Kostick educates. “What TearCare does is liquefy that substance so it no longer clogs the gland.”

Heat and Liquify

TearCare uses a small yet flexible device placed on the eyelids. The device conforms to the eyelid and emits heat that “melts” the substance inside the glands.

“TearCare is the only treatment that reaches a temperature that allows those substances inside the glands to melt and liquefy,” Dr. Kostick explains. “But the temperature is not anything that would cause a burn or discomfort. In fact, patients are quite comfortable with it. The device, meanwhile, stays on the eyelids throughout the procedure. But unlike similar treatments, patients can actually blink and open their eyes.”

Dr. Kostick has treated many patients with TearCare, but Wilma was the first.

“The fact that my own mother was the first patient I used this treatment on tells you just how much I believe in it,” Dr. Kostick notes. “I knew this was something that could help her and others like her, but I was amazed at how well it worked.

“When we completed the treatment, tons of this cheesy material started coming out of her eyelids. That stuff had been clogging her glands for years, and now she’s getting the relief she couldn’t get from all the other treatments she tried.”

Wilma noticed relief immediately following the treatment.

“It was not uncomfortable at all,” she says. “It was quite relaxing.”

The results of the TearCare procedure should last several months.

“Dry eye, MGD and blepharitis are all chronic conditions, so this is not a one-time-and-you’re-done treatment,” Dr. Kostick informs. “I liken it to getting your teeth cleaned. You usually get that done twice a year. This treatment is similar in that way.”

TearCare is not the only new treatment Dr. Kostick offers for dry eye disease, MGD and blepharitis. A trained acupuncturist, she also provides acupuncture for patients not responding to other therapies.

Marisa Melchiorre, who has also struggled for years to find a remedy for dry eye disease, is one such patient.

Marisa Melchiorre standing in a corn field smiling at the camera

Marisa Melchiorre

“Acupuncture is a way of treating dry eye disease that is totally different than all the others, but several research studies show that it actually does help with a certain class of dry eyes,” Dr. Kostick educates. “That’s why I’ve decided to offer it.”

Immediate Relief

Acupuncture is performed using hair-thin needles inserted through the skin at specified points on the body. The points are unique to each patient and their condition. In this case, Dr. Kostick inserted the needles in Marisa’s ankles, hands and above her eyebrows. The treatment lasted about 30 minutes.

Marisa says she experienced immediate relief of her symptoms that lasted about two months. She recently repeated the treatment and is still benefitting from it.

“My eyes used to hurt constantly, like a knife was scratching my eyeball,” Marisa explains. “But ever since I tried the acupuncture, I’ve felt a lot better. I’d say I got about 50 percent relief from it, which is significant for me.

“I found Dr. Kostick while researching ways to treat dry eye disease because nothing else worked for me, and I’m glad I did. She’s great, and I love how she treats everyone like they’re part of her family.”

Dr. Kostick endeavors to create that family atmosphere at Atlantic Eye Center – and you don’t have to be her mother. She is proud to be treating her patients’ parents, spouses, children and grandchildren.

“Our patients become part of our extended family,” Dr. Kostick asserts. “We strive to make them comfortable by creating a very caring environment. They know they are going to be treated with a personal touch whenever they come here.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photos courtesy of Atlantic Eye Center and Marisa Melchiorre. js
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    • Atlantic Eye Center

      Flagler County’s leading female board-certified ophthalmologist, serving the county since 1996, is at Atlantic Eye Center. Benefits the center offers you include: A multi-trained and highly regarded doctor Unparalleled eye care experi... Read More

    • Alexandra Kostick, MD, FACS, FRCSC

      Alexandra Kostick, MD, FACS, FRCSC, is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. After earning her medical degree at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Dr. Kostick served a mixed surgery internship at St. Boniface Hospital at... Read More