Dry climate leads to dry eyes
Area optometrists are able to help with new diagnostic and treatment programs for chronic dry eyes
September 24, 2016
Dry itchy eyes are as much of the western way of life as dust and sagebrush for many people, but now there may be relief in sight as area optometrists offer new diagnostic equipment and treatment programs.
"It is so dry here and that was one of my motivators to bringing the equipment here," said Craig Eckroth, optometrist and partner at EyeCare SpecialtiesEyeCare Specialties, who in 2015 began diagnosing and treating people with dry eyes using a new system by the , who in 2015 began diagnosing and treating people with dry eyes using a new system by the Tear ScienceTear Science company called Lipiview and Lipiflow. company called Lipiview and Lipiflow.
Tears keep eyes lubricated. They are made of three components, water, oil and mucus, and when working together keep the eyes healthy and free from dust and other contaminants. Too few or poor quality tears can lead to poor vision, the College of Optometrists', "Look After Your Eyes" website“Look After Your Eyes” website said. said.
In the United States, approximately 20 million Americans have at least early signs or symptoms of Dry Eye Disease, the Journal "Review of Optometry" reported in 2014.
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An inadequate amount of tear production or poor quality tears are attributed by the American Optometric AssociationAmerican Optometric Association, to a number of factors, including Meibomian gland dysfunction, age, medications, some medical conditions, environmental conditions, allergies, long-term use of contacts and refractive eye surgeries like Lasik., to a number of factors, including Meibomian gland dysfunction, age, medications, some medical conditions, environmental conditions, allergies, long-term use of contacts and refractive eye surgeries like Lasik.
American Optometric Association, to a number of factors, including Meibomian gland dysfunction, age, medications, some medical conditions, environmental conditions, allergies, long-term use of contacts and refractive eye surgeries like Lasik.
"About 86 percent of all patients have Meibomian gland dysfunction. Those glands are what produce the oil component that creates stability of the tear field," Eckroth said.
In the past, the condition would be diagnosed through patient histories, external examinations of the eyes, evaluations using bright lights and magnification and in some cases, measuring tears using a special dye placed into the eyes, said the American Osteopathic Association.
New technology is making it possible to diagnose and treat the condition.
"I've know that Meibomian gland dysfunction are significant for tears, but we haven't had a way to image them before. Now we can look at the glands structurally," Ekroth said.
Lipiview, an imaging instrument that generates images of the glands, and Lipiflow, a machine that provides therapeutic treatment for blocked glands, were installed at EyeCare Specialties in November 2015 with "well over 500 people, close to 1,000 images taken, and many patients treated," said Ekroth.
"Treatments are vectored thermal pulse technology," Ekroth said. "It feels great. It's like getting a massage of your eye lids."
The 12-minute procedure is done in the office.
EyeCare Specialties is the only office in Western Colorado with the new technology.
"Patients can have medical management of dry eyes here and still seek routine care at other providers," Ekroth said.
Costs are starting to come down as more providers invest in the system.
"Imaging and treatment are not currently covered by insurance. It's relatively new but effective," Ekroth said. "The medical component is generally covered by insurance. It's changed my mentality from watch and wait to proactive treatment."
For people who suffer from dry eyes, not caused by gland dysfunction, treatment options include tear replacement, retention and improvement.
"Initial treatment for dry eye disease is aimed primarily at tear replacement, artificial tears and lubricants, and retention, ductile plugs," said Ron Shaeffer, optometrist at Victory Vision. "Also involved are topical, eye drops, anti-inflammatory agents, such as Restasis and steroids."
To reduce dry eye symptoms, the American Optometric Association recommends blinking regularly, increasing the humidity in the air at work and at home, wearing sunglasses outdoors, avoiding dehydration, eating a diet rich in essential fatty acids or by using nutritional supplements.
If symptoms persist, it might be time to have the glands checked.
"We are much more proactive now. When we see glad structure loss we know it will get worse without intervention. It's changed our whole paradigm to help people feel better. We didn't have any way to solve or prevent the problem, now we do," Eckroth said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.