Dry eye disease is on the rise, especially in Colorado. In fact, people of all ages are now suffering the consequences of undiagnosed chronic dry eye disease, even children and young adults.
What is dry eye disease?
As a chronic condition, dry eye disease often has no symptoms at first but eventually leads to irreversible ocular surface irregularities, inflammatory tissue destruction, and permanence of symptoms. Symptoms of dry eye disease include frequent watery teariness, eye redness, contact lens intolerance, sandiness, grittiness, burning, stinging, fluctuating unstable vision, and eye strain.
What are the causes of dry eye disease?
The causes of dry eye disease are often multifactorial with overlapping factors including Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), computer vision syndrome, incomplete blink, contact lens overwear, environmental (dry climates like Colorado), post-surgical (LASIK, eyelid procedures, Botox, etc), medications, and inflammatory systemic disease.
What is MGD?
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is the most common cause of dry eye disease. Meibomian (oil) glands live along the eyelid margins and produce the front oily lipid layer of the tear film, which prevents evaporation of the aqueous (watery) layer underneath. Obstructions that form within these oil glands block off healthy lipid secretion, causing an unstable rapidly evaporating tear film, inflammatory ocular surface disease, and increased risk for eye infection.
Why do these obstructions form in the first place?
Inadequate blink function, poor eyelid hygiene, and systemic disease. In fact, patients most at risk are contact lens overwearers, heavy computer users, and those suffering from systemic diseases like Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, and Sjogren’s.
Why is MGD such a big deal?
Chronic MGD leads to irreversible destruction of the Meibomian glands themselves. As the oil glands remain obstructed over time, their lack of lipid secretion leads to increased gland congestion, permanent structural and functional gland loss, and precipitation of inflammatory ocular surface disease. End-stage loss of Meibomian glands leads to lifelong dependence on anti-inflammatory eye medications and constant artificial tear supplementation.
Can lost Meibomian glands grow back?
No. Meibomian glands DO NOT regenerate. Once they are destroyed from chronic MGD, they are gone for good. Early diagnosis and treatment is key to preventing further progressive irreversible loss of Meibomian glands and permanence of evaporative dry eye disease.
What is the LipiFlow Procedure? LipiFlow thermal pulsation system is the only FDA approved procedure proven effective for treating MGD at the source and stopping further Meibomian gland loss. LipiFlow is a simple painless 12 minute in-office procedure that gently removes years of obstructive matter trapped deep within the Meibomian orifices of both upper and lower eyelids simultaneously. Once the obstructive matter is removed, lipid secretion flow is restored, and your body’s natural ability to produce a balanced tear film is improved.
Is the purpose of LipiFlow to improve symptoms?
Not necessarily. The main purpose of LipiFlow is to PREVENT FURTHER PERMANENT LOSS of Meibomian glands so that present symptoms (if any) do not worsen and create future dependence on eye medications and artificial tear supplementation. However, studies show that 86% of patients who already experience dry eye symptoms found relief and less dependence on artificial tears after just one LipiFlow treatment.
How often do LipiFlow treatments need to be repeated?
Repeat LipiFlow procedures are sometimes necessary over time but the medical literature supports one single LipiFlow treatment lasting in efficacy for well over 12 months. There are specific at-home maintenance treatments that your doctor will be customizing to your case in order to sustain the effect of one LipiFlow procedure so that repeat procedures will not be needed as frequently.
How much does the LipiFlow procedure cost?
Your doctor will go over price, medical insurance, and financing options in addition to determining whether or not LipiFlow is appropriate for your case of dry eye disease.
Will my doctor discuss additional dry eye disease treatments other than LipiFlow?
Absolutely. Dry eye disease is never treated the same for every patient. Your doctor will custom target treatments that will be most effective for your individual case.
Feature image: Alexander Raths/Shutterstock