Posts Tagged ‘Meibomian gland dysfunction’

Lighting the Way to More Comfortable Eyes

April 12th, 2020

We all shed tears. Our eyes produce tears continually, and when we blink, those tears spread across the front surface of our eyes to lubricate them. Tears also clear our eyes of debris and protect them from infection. But in some people, tears don’t work the way they’re supposed to and dry eye disease is the result.

If you’re one of those people, you’re not alone.

In the United States, more than 16 million people suffer from dry eyes.  That’s nearly seven percent of the population. And that figure is likely much higher because not all people with dry eye symptoms see a doctor for treatment. But about 33 percent of patients who visit eye doctors complain of dry eye symptoms.

Symptoms of dry eye can be very uncomfortable and include decreased vision or occasional blurry vision, dryness, redness, itching, burning, eye fatigue and the feeling there’s something in your eye. And believe it or not, some people with dry eye experience excessive tearing.

There are two types of dry eye disease. There’s the aqueous-deficient type, which is when your eyes don’t make enough tears. Then there’s the evaporative type, which is when your tears don’t stay on your eyeball long enough to keep it properly lubricated.  Evaporative dry eye disease is the more common of the two.

Most of the time, evaporative dry eye occurs when the eye’s oil glands, the Meibomian glands, become clogged and can’t release the oils necessary for healthy tears. The oil component of tears helps keep them from evaporating off the surface of your eyes.

When the Meibomian glands are clogged, inflammation and an overgrowth of bacteria on the eyelids can also occur, which makes dry eye symptoms even worse. These conditions make it difficult for the Meibomian glands to work properly, which is referred to as Meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD.

Treatment for MGD typically begins with artificial tears, warm compresses and eyelid cleansing. When these steps fall to improve MGD, and subsequently your dry eye symptoms, there’s a newer treatment available called intense pulsed light, or IPL.

IPL was originally designed for use in dermatology to treat conditions such as rosacea and acne but was introduced into ophthalmology a few years ago. IPL is the use of short bursts of powerful light in various wavelengths to treat MGD. The wavelengths chosen for your treatment depends on your skin color and tone.

The IPL light generates heat below the skin of the eyelids, warming and thinning the thickened oil, or meibum, blocking the glands. Once the meibum is thinned, it can more easily be removed through Meibomian gland expression or MGX. During MGX, the doctor uses a cotton-tipped applicator and manual pressure to squeeze out the meibum from the glands.

In addition to thinning the meibum, IPL also closes the small blood vessels on the surface of the skin that contributes to inflammation. The heat IPL generates also kills the problematic bacteria flourishing on the eyelids. All of these functions have beneficial effects on MGD and, as a result, dry eye symptoms.

During an IPL treatment, the doctor will first place shields on your eyes to protect them from the light. The doctor will also place a thin layer of cooling gel on the areas of skin to be treated. The pulses of light are delivered from the outer area of the right eye, across the cheeks and nose to the outer area of the left eye.

You may feel a warm sensation during treatment, but that’s all. IPL treatment is not painful. A typical treatment consists of about 30 pulses and takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Afterward, you may be instructed to use low-dose anti-inflammatory eye drops for a few days.

Many people experience improvement in their symptoms after one IPL treatment, but for best results, a series of four treatments over four months is typically recommended. Maintenance treatments are also recommended every six months to a year.

A number of studies confirmed that IPL reduces both signs and symptoms of MGD and dry eye. In one study, more than 90 percent of patients improved in the three areas used to assess MGD. Results are validated subjectively through your report of symptom improvement and objectively when your doctor examines the surface of your eyes under a light.

LipiFlow: A Defining Therapy for Dry Eye

March 11th, 2019

Among eye disorders, dry eye disease is one of the most common. It affects 30 million Americans. It’s also one of the most uncomfortable. With it, your eyes feel dry and may itch, sting and/or burn. There’s also a feeling you’ve got something foreign in your eye. And even though it’s called dry eye, your eyes may tear a lot, too.

Dry eye disease is generally divided into two types. One is the aqueous deficient type, which means you’re not producing enough tears. The other is the evaporative type, which means your tears aren’t staying on your eyeball long enough to maintain a good protective layer on your eye’s surface.

The majority of people who have the evaporative type of dry eye disease, the more common of the two types, have a condition called Meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD. The Meibomian glands make the oil component of tears. Oil is necessary so that your tears maintain that protective layer and leave your eyes with a good tear film.

Meibomian glands are located in the eyelids. There are about 25 to 40 glands in your upper eyelid and 20 to 30 in your lower. MGD is generally from a blockage of some of these glands with debris. This prevents the glands from secreting their oils effectively.

Traditionally, treatment for MGD included warm compresses over the eyelids to loosen any clogs in the glands. This was usually combined with manual massage of the glands to dislodge the debris blocking them.

These methods have had limited results for several reasons, one of the main being patients simply don’t do it. The treatment routine can be difficult to keep up with, so patients often don’t comply with it.

Another reason for failure may be that the heat from the warm compresses is insulated from the glands by the skin of the outer eyelid, so there’s not enough heat by the time it gets to the glands to make a difference. Also, patients often don’t have the know-how or dexterity to apply enough pressure while massaging the eyelids to be effective.

Another option to treat MGD was the physical expression of the Meibomian glands by a trained ophthalmologist. Unfortunately, this could be a painful experience for patients due to the heavy pressure on the eye necessary to accomplish the goal.

Then along comes the LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System, which signals a breakthrough in the treatment of MGD and, in turn, dry eye disease. LipiFlow is designed to address the limitations of  traditional treatments.

LipiFlow combines the controlled application of therapeutic heat with a gentle, pulsating massage from a hand-held device. The two functions of the device work to liquefy then remove clogging debris from the glands, enabling them to function efficiently.

The LipiFlow device has two components. The first is a small eyepiece that resembles a large contact lens. The eyepiece slides beneath your eyelid and over the round portion of your eye. It delivers heat outward to the eyelids. It also protects the eye itself from the heat.

The second piece of the device sits outside your eye on the eyelid. It provides the pulsating massage of the glands that gently squeezes them to open up the blockages and express the oils. While not considered especially painful, the LipiFlow procedure is generally performed using drops to anesthetize your eyes and make you more comfortable.

LipiFlow has proven effective at treating MGD and dry eye. Clinical studies show it provides better results than traditional methods alone. In one study, patients receiving LipiFlow had a statistically significant improvement in objective measurements of Meibomian gland function and dry eye symptoms, while warm compresses did not.

In another study, the treatment increased the amount of time people with contact lenses, who are prone to getting dry eye, could wear their lenses by four hours. As a contact lens wearer, I can attest that that, too, is significant.

One of the physicians I work with offers LipiFlow at his practice, and he’s noted excellent results with his patients first hand. In his experience, 80 to 90 percent of his patients had significant improvement in their dry eye symptoms after adding LipiFlow to their existing treatment regimen. That’s pretty impressive.

LipiFlow is performed in your ophthalmologist’s office, and you can drive and do your regular activities immediately after. In some cases, patients notice some improvement in their symptoms right away. Most will begin to see a difference after three weeks, and the full benefit of the LipiFlow is usually seen by six weeks post-procedure.

There’re already 30 million Americans with dry eye disease, and that numbers is just going to get larger, mostly because we can’t put down our laptops and phones. When you use digital devices, you don’t blink as often as when you’re not in front of a screen, and that can lead to dry eye.

At least now you know there’s an effective treatment for dry eye disease if you should need it. But give your eyes a break once in a while and blink!

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