Suppose you’ve noticed your eyes are scratchy and red, so you go to your optometrist for an eye exam. Your doctor might inform you that, like 16 million other Americans, you have dry eyes. While many treatments exist to reduce irritating symptoms, you may want to consider an option that addresses the root of the problem.
Fortunately, LipiFlow is a breakthrough treatment that may be exactly what you’re looking for. The LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System soothes and treats your dry eyes by breaking down blockages in your glands.
What Is Dry Eye?
Dry eyes typically occur in one of two ways. Either your eyes don’t produce enough tears, or the tears you produce are low quality. When we say a “low-quality” tear, we’re referring to an issue with your tear film.
Tears are far more complex than they seem. You’d be amazed how much goes into making a tear. See, every time we blink, we’re coating our eyes in 3 protective layers of nutrients and proteins. These layers are:
- The innermost mucus layer, which keeps your tear attached to your eyes.
- The middle aqueous layer, which is mostly water and contains nutrients to hydrate and repeal bacteria.
- The outermost lipid layer, which keeps the tear smooth and prevents the other layers from evaporating.
When these layers work together, our eyes feel refreshed, which in turn helps us get through the day without any frustrating eye issues. But, if there’s an irregularity, it can result in a range of symptoms, such as:
- A stinging, burning, or gritty sensation
- Light sensitivity
- Stringy mucus around the eye
- The feeling of something in your eye
- Blurred vision
- Excess production of tears and your eyes try to make up for the lack of moisture
Without the tear film to protect your eyes, you could also be at a higher risk of eye infections or damage to your cornea, the transparent dome at the front of your eye.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
A range of factors can cause dry eyes, which can be a one-time thing or a chronic condition. Things like your age, gender, and medical conditions such as diabetes can all increase your risk of developing dry eyes.
However, 80% of chronic dry eye cases are caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). The meibomian glands line your eyelids, and their purpose is to produce an oil called meibum. Meibum is a vital part of forming the outermost lipid layer of your tear film—the layer that prevents your tears from evaporating. Without this oil, your tears evaporate too fast.
This reduction in meibum may be due to these glands getting clogged up, sometimes because of the very lipid layer the glands are making. If you’re not blinking enough, such as because you work on a computer or wear contact lenses, the lipid layer may solidify and plug up these glands.
Other factors that may increase your risk of developing MGD include:
How does LipiFlow Address MGD?
While it is very likely that MGD is causing your dry eye symptoms, a thorough examination using a LipiView Interferometer can assess your tear quality and detect these blocked glands. Once your optometrist has diagnosed the root cause of your dry eyes as blocked meibomian glands, the LipiFlow treatment can begin.
LipiFlow uses dome-shaped, single-use sterile activators that slip under your eyelids. These protect your cornea as they apply heat outward toward the eyelids. In time, this relaxes and opens meibomian glands while gently massaging to clear the blockages. This treatment is non-invasive, and some have even found it relaxing.
After about 12 minutes, any obstructions should have been warmed-up, liquified, and expelled. This efficient treatment can be done right in your eye doctor’s office. Some may see immediate relief from symptoms, though results can take up to 6–8 weeks to notice.
Benefits of LipiFlow
LipiFlow is a non-invasive procedure. Other treatments, such as medication, artificial tears, and prescription eye drops, may have side effects for certain people. Some people also appreciate being able to avoid having devices such as punctal plugs placed in their tear ducts.
LipiFlow can also provide long-lasting relief from dry eye symptoms. Once the system clears blockages, many people notice relief from symptoms lasting several years.
Soothe Your Dry Eyes With LipiFlow
LipiFlow is designed to address dry eyes caused by MGD. Unfortunately, that means if something else causes your dry eyes, LipiFlow might not be suitable for you. But, an experienced optometrist can help you find the proper treatment.