There are an estimated 30 million dry eye sufferers in the US - many of them having symptoms of burning, stinging, and a blurry or fluctuating vision. The most common cause of having dry eyes is not that the eyes aren't producing enough tears but in fact is, that tears evaporate too quickly. And the most common cause for an evaporate form of dry eyes is a condition called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction which is also known as MGD.
MGD is a progressive condition where the oil glands (which are located on the inside of your upper and lower eyelid) become blocked and inflamed. As a result, they stop producing the oily liquid that sits on top and is part of the tear film.
And this oily substance is crucial as it prevents your tears from evaporating and keeping your eyes moist. So when these oil glands aren't functioning properly, then this oil isn't sitting there and your tears will evaporate literally in a blink of an eye. When the tears have evaporated, that's when you start having that sandy and gritty feel, and your vision starts to fluctuate annoyingly. And if these oil glands remain blocked and inflamed for too long, the oil glands can die off and once they are dead you can't get them back.
Studies have shown, that 86% of patients with dry eyes have some signs of Meibomian Gland Disease.
In clinics that specialize in diagnosing and treating dry eye diseases such as MGD, doctors use special instruments to scan the health condition of the oil glands. This allows them to even determine which glands in the eyelid are functioning properly and which ones are not.
There are several new innovative ways to treat blocked oil glands.
iLux from Alcon
One fairly new way of treating MGD is utilizing a device called iLux - a new heating and compression device originally developed by TearFilm Innovations (now owned by Alcon). Different than other devices, iLux uses light to heat up the oil glands within your eyelids to the precise temperature required to melt the waxy substance that blocks your glands. The temperature is about 42 degrees Celcius and at that temperature, the wax will melt and the oil within your glands will be more fluid. This means the oil will run smoother so that in the second phase of the treatment process, those oils can be extracted putting pressure on the lids and extracting the oil. This restores the production of oil which protects the tear film from evaporation and prevents the oil glands from dying off. The advantage off this device over other conventional ways such as hot compresses is that it will heat up the eyelids to exactly the ideal temperature for the treatment. Not too high and not to low. And for as long as is required to get the oils fluid and discharged.
With a device such as the ILux, a doctor can specifically target those blocked oil glands that need to be expressed. Through an attached magnifying glass the doctor can see how much oil gets discharged and adjust the treatment of that oil gland through reheating and recompressing. Another plus point for this device is safety as it specifically heats up just the oil glands and not the entire eye. And because there is no additional excess pressure on the eye, most patients won't end up with a distorted vision or an increased pressure of the eyeball itself, which is a risk for glaucoma.
LipiFlow from Johnson & Johnson Vision Care
LipiFlow is another device for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) helping to improve the function of your oil glands. In combination with a unique heating technology, LipiFlow uses something called 'Vectored Thermal Pulse Technology' to stimulate and activate the glands. Originally developed by TearScience and now owned by Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, a LipiFlow treatment - similar to iLux - requires you to visit an eye doctor offering this innovative procedure.
While heating the glands from the inside of the eye lids, the device sends out frequent pulses applying light pressure to the glands and activating the flow of oil in the clogged glands. So in this treatment option, the heating and extracting of the blocked glands is achieved in one step.
MDG is a very dommon eye condition and if you are somebody that has dry eye symptoms or some other form of ocular surface disease, reach out to your local eye care professional and ask about these unique treatment options and whether they are right for you.