How to Manage Dry Eye Disease
Dry, red, irritated eyes are often seen as an annoyance for some, but for over 15 million Americans who suffer from dry eye disease (DED), these symptoms can result in a wide range of symptoms, from mild to severe discomfort and poor quality vision. Often, DED is left unrecognized and untreated. The good news is, that by working together with your eye care provider, you can find relief from symptoms associated with dry eye disease.
The ocular surface includes several different structures in the eye, including the cornea (surface of the eye), conjunctiva (a thin tissue that covers the inside of the eyelids and white part of the eye), eyelids, meibomian (oil) glands, and lacrimal glands (structure that produces the watery part of the tears). Whenever there is a disorder of any one of these structures,ocular surface disease (OSD) occurs.
The tear film itself is made up of three layers: a watery (aqueous) layer, an oily (lipid) layer, and a mucous-like (mucin) layer - each having a specific purpose and function. These layers keep the eye lubricated, minimize infection, and keep the surface of the eye clear. Without a balanced tear film, patients may experience several uncomfortable symptoms. Besides a generalized feeling of dryness, there are many indicators that point to DED as a culprit. Individuals with DED often describe a stinging, burning, or scratchy sensation. Eyes may be aching, red, or fatigued. Wearing contact lenses, or prolonged computer work may be challenging. Vision may be blurry and activities like driving or watching television become more difficult. While it seems counterintuitive, watery eyes are often a sign of DED. The body senses that the eyes are dry, which causes an overproduction of tears. Because of this overabundance of tears, they often spill over before they have a chance to drain into the tear ducts, causing dripping or watering eyes.
Often, treatment of DED is focused on controlling discomfort without attempting to restore the balance of the tear film or treating the root cause. While there are several options for addressing DED, Dr. Alison R. Tendler, ophthalmologist and owner of ART Vision in Sioux Falls, SD offers treatment modalities for DED that go beyond endless boxes of artificial eye drops. Because the most common type of DED impacts the oily layer of the tear film produced from the meibomian glands, treatments often focus on restoring the health and function of these glands. One of these treatments uses a combination of BroadBand Light™ (BBL), a form of IPL, in combination with radiofrequency skin tightening known as ThermiEyes®. Using this combination of treatments, patients can experience great relief of many of their DED symptoms. BBL therapy works by shutting down vessels that permit inflammatory mediators that negatively impact the oil glands of the eyelids. BBL has also been shown to decrease the bacterial load on the skin and decreases parasites on the eyelash margin that can cause dysfunction of these glands. ThermiEyes™ works to improve the elasticity of the skin around the eyes (resulting in some wonderful aesthetic results as well) and the heating of the eyelids causes the oil glands to warm, which minimizes blockages and makes the oils easier to express. At the completion of the BBL/ThermiEyes™ treatment, the glands will be manually expressed to clear these oil-producing glands around the eyes of any further blockages.
Another treatment option for DED that is offered by Dr. Tendler is the use of autologous serum tears (ASTs). ASTs are eye drops that are made from a patient’s own blood plasma diluted in sterile saline. Because the serum that is used to make the eye drops is composed of growth factors, proteins, antioxidants, and lipids, its chemical makeup is similar to that of human tears and provides a more natural and effective replacement than artificially manufactured tears. Research shows that ASTs are more effective than artificial tears for improving the stability of the tear film and can improve comfort in patients with severe DED.
These treatment options are poised to be a natural, safe, and effective way to treat patients with DED. Working together with your primary eye care provider, Dr. Tendler and the staff at ART Vision are pleased to offer these innovative ways to manage the discomfort associated with DED. If you suffer from dry eyes, or would like more information on whether or not these treatment modalities may be right for you, contact the team at ART Vision at 605-371-7057.