Natalie Afshari, MD, Chief, Division of Cornea and Refractive Surgery, is now offering a Dry Eye and Ocular Surface Clinic for those complaining of gritty, itchy and red eyes - chronic dry eye. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI) at the National Institute of Health (NIH), dry eye is a condition in which the eye produces fewer or lower quality tears and is unable to keep its surface lubricated.
The main symptom of dry eye is usually a scratchy feeling or as if something is in your eye. Other symptoms include stinging or burning in the eye, episodes of excess tearing that follow periods of dryness, discharge from the eye, and pain and redness in the eye. Sometimes people with dry eye also feel as if their eyelids are very heavy or their vision is blurred.
Meibomian Gland Disease (MGD) is the leading cause of dry eye and ocular discomfort. When we blink properly, the meibomian glands release the protective oils that spread across the tear film. Partial blinking and lack of blinking, common in today’s digital society, impair healthy gland function and lead to blockages in the glands. One way to help our glands maintain their healthy function is daily blink exercises.
Dr. Afshari utilizes many modalities including artificial tears, gels, and ointments, anti-inflammatory eye drops, lid hygiene, punctual plugs, and Lipiflow® technology to treat dry eye. Lipiflow® is the only FDA cleared electronic device for the treatment of MGD that may remove gland blockages and may restore gland function. Through advances in the application of Vectored Thermal Pulsation (VTP) technology, the LipiFlow treatment utilizes a patented algorithm of heat and massage to remove the obstructions in the meibomian glands. A 12-minute procedure consisting of pressure, pulsation and heat are applied to the glands with an activator device to allow the glands to release the blocked oils. Patients have explained a sand paper like feeling in their eyes prior to the procedure and a smoother freedom of movement of their eyelids after the procedure.
Ongoing dry eye prevention includes taking routine care of eyelids with basic hygiene practices. Once gland blockages occur, the glands do not function as well. If blocked glands remain untreated, there is a significant risk for gland loss over time. Aging cannot be controlled, a factor that contributes to dry eye, but we can intervene early with regular blink exercises and good lid health habits. A cornea specialist can assess gland blockages on a routine basis and MGD can be treated before symptoms negatively impact the quality of life. At the very least, the long-term effect on meibomian gland structure may be reduced and healthy oil production from the glands may be maintained by intervening early.
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