12-minute treatment for dry eyes

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It makes millions miserable. Dry eye disease is caused by a variety of things and standard treatment usually means medications, daily eye drops, and ointments. Now there's a new eye-opening option for sufferers and it only takes few minutes.

"I felt like I had a piece of glass in my eye," said dry eye patient, Diana Galson-Kooy.

She has suffered with dry eye disease for years.

"I've kind of gotten used to the pain," Galson-Kooy said.

It is caused by things like prolonged contact lens wear, birth control, anti-histamines, and even staring a screen. Evaporative dry eye affects the glands that make tears.

"Her tears that she's making are leaving her eyes much quicker than she should be," said Dr. Ernest Kornmehl, MD, FACS, at Kornmehl Laser Eye Associates.

Kornmehl says, like Diana, the majority of his patients come in for dry eye treatments. He is recommending this treatment for many.

"Perfect, you're doing wonderfully," Kornmehl said.

It is called LipiFLow.

"It takes 12 minutes and patients go to work immediately after the procedure," Kornmehl explained.

Cups surround the eyelids. They heat up and pulsate to melt blockages in her tear glands.

"It doesn't hurt. It just is strange," Galson-Kooy said.

In FDA trials, 79 percent of LipiFlow patients showed improvement. The doctor says those improvements can last nine to 15 months. Some LipiFlow patients, like Galson-Kooy, will still need additional treatments.

"They find themselves not taking the drops or ointments as they were before," Kornmehl said.

Right after Galson-Kooy's treatment, "my eyes feel lubricated," she said.

It has brought some much needed tears to her eyes.

"It was unbelievable," she explained.

LipiFlow is FDA approved, but it is not covered by insurance. The cost per eye can range between 700 and 11 hundred dollars.

Additional Information:

BACKGROUND:   Dry eye syndrome is a common disorder of the tear film.  Dry eyes occur when tears are not able to provide enough moisture for the eyes.  For example, dry eyes will occur if the eyes are not producing enough tears or if the tears are poor quality.  Tears are a mixture of water, fatty oils, and mucus.  They help make the surface of the eye clear and smooth while protecting against infection.  For some dry eyes can occur when there is an imbalance in the composition of tears.  Dry eyes can cause the eyes to sting and burn. Certain situations may cause you to feel this pain of dry eyes, such as while riding a bike, or looking at a computer screen for long periods of time. (Source:  mayoclinic.com)


RISK FACTORS:  Decreased tear production is a major cause of dry eye syndrome.  Certain factors may put you at risk.  Factors include:

  • Being older than 50.  Tear production diminishes as you get older.
  • Being a postmenopausal woman.  Lack of tears is more common in women, due to hormonal changes.
  • Having a medical condition that reduces tear production.  For example, diabetes, lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, vitamin A deficiency, and thyroid disorders.
  • Having laser eye surgery.

Eyelid problems can also put you at risk.  Blinking spreads tears across the surface of the eye.  If there is an eyelid problem that makes it difficult to blink, tears may not be spread across the eye adequately.  Certain medications are also a risk factor for dry eye disease; for example, drugs that are used for high blood pressure, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, antihistamines, and isotretinoin.  (Source:  mayoclincic.com)

TREATMENT:  Dry eye syndrome goes beyond having irritated eyes.  It can cause frequent eye infections, scarring on the surface of the eye resulting in vision loss, and decreased quality of life.  For most with mildly dry eyes, treatment includes over-the-counter eye drops.  If symptoms are more severe, treatment depends on what is causing it.  If it is caused by medication, then doctors will suggest switching medications.  Also, if there is an eyelid condition, then the doctor may refer you to an eye surgeon to correct the problem.  (Source:  Mayoclinic.com)

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  A revolutionary way to help treat dry eye syndrome is the LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System.  It helps treat dry eyes by opening and clearing blocked glands, which in turn will allow the eyes to resume the natural production of oils (lipids) needed for the tear film. It's a fast procedure that works by applying heat and light pressure to the inside of the eye lid, allowing lipids to be released from the Meibomian glands.  In a clinical study, 79% of patients reported improved dry eyes within four weeks of a single treatment. (Source:  lipiflow.com)

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