What is Dry Eye Disease?
Dry eye disease affects over 3 million persons in Canada. Symptoms include burning, watery, gritty eyes and fluctuating vision.
Dry eye can develop from a deficiency in the watery (aqueous) layer of the tears and/or the oily layer.
Deficiencies in the aqueous layer are caused by a reduced ability of the lacrimal glands to produce tears. Many diseases such as autoimmune disease,
arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome can cause this disorder, as well as certain medications and aging.
Even though many patients have aqueous deficiency, 86% of dry eye is caused by a deficiency of the oily layer of the tears. The oil layer is produced by glands in the eyelid called meibomian glands. Every time you blink, a small amount of oil is expelled from the glands into the tears. This oil layer is an extremely important
component of the tears. Without it, the tears will constantly evaporate, causing a never-ending cycle of irritated and even watery eyes.
Over time, the meibomian glands can become blocked, resulting in a condition called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction or MGD. The condition is chronic and progressive, resulting in a decline in oil production. Without treatment, the glands can shrink and even disappear entirely, leaving the patient miserable with limited treatment options.
How is Dry Eye Disease Diagnosed?
If you have dry eye symptoms, we encourage you to book a comprehensive Dry Eye Assessment at our office.
The assessment is an hour in length and includes testing for all causes of dry eye disease. These include assessments of both aqueous
and oil production, tear chemistry, presence of inflammation, blink assessment, gland structure, lid anatomy and a thorough assessment of all of
the external eye structures. In addition to aqueous and oil deficiencies, we also look for bacterial, parasitic and inflammatory causes of dry eye.
How is Dry Eye Disease Treated?
Once a definitive diagnosis of your dry eye is determined, a customized treatment plan is developed.
Although there may be many treatments for dry eye, the ultimate goal is to help you produce more of your own tears, rather than relying on artificial tears that only treat the symptoms and do not prevent progression of the disease. Treatments can range from simple eye drops and blink exercises to treatments such as Lipiflow.
Treating MGD with Lipiflow
The best treatment for MGD is Lipiflow. This instrument unblocks the meibomian glands by using heat to melt the hardened oil in the glands and then gentle pulsation to expel the oil completely from the glands. The meibomian glands will then rehabilitate and start producing oil on their own again. It takes about one to three months (or more) for the glands to heal. Lipiflow is the only treatment that can prevent progression of meibomian gland disease.
Will I need to have my Lipiflow treatment repeated?
With a daily 5-10 minute maintenance routine (lid cleansing and hot compresses), the benefits of a Lipiflow treatment can last 3 years or more before
it needs to be repeated.