State-of-the-art dry eye treatment relieves some
COVID-19 masks can give us red, itchy, itchy eyes and drops may not get to the root of the problem.
CHESAPEAKE, Virginia – The pandemic is causing us to spend too much time staring at our screens.
When we don’t blink enough, our tears evaporate quickly and can dry out our eyes.
The breath that escapes under our masks can make our eyes red and itchy.
Today, a handful of eye care offices offer cutting edge treatment for dry eyes.
Rather than just treating the symptoms, the focus is on the root cause of why our eyes are not producing enough quality tears.
“Artificial tears are great. For many people, they can provide temporary relief, but it’s very temporary,” said Dr. Shane Swatts of Eastern Virginia Eye Associates.
Jennifer Biggs has tried a variety of dry eye treatments.
“For me, it’s more my phone. I’m in sales so I’m on my phone all the time and on the computer when I’m at home,” Biggs said.
Like millions of people, Jennifer wears contact lenses which can dry out the eyes. She used drops every 15 minutes, but her “dry eyes” kept coming back.
Jennifer’s eyes showed classic signs of dry eye, abnormal inflamed blood vessels along the edge of the eyelid. The meibomian glands were clogged, producing cloudy, thick toothpaste-like oils, rather than clear oils that produced quality tears.
“We have a set number of these glands that we are born with, and once we lose them we cannot regenerate them,” said Dr Swatts.
Jennifer opted for a treatment called “Intense Pulsed Light” or IPL. Patches are placed on his eyes to protect the delicate eye tissue. A lubricating gel is applied to her face to help the light target the area to be treated.
Dr. Swatts makes two passes with a cooled “light guide” over Jennifer’s face. Each pulse resembles the slight snap of a small rubber band.
“We haven’t had anyone abandon this procedure from a comfort standpoint,” said Dr. Swatts.
In four sessions, IPL clears abnormal blood vessels in the face, including areas of rosacea that can contribute to dry eyes. The pulsed light also melts the oils in the “meibomian glands” giving them a warm appearance of baby oil, more capable of producing quality tears.
Jennifer’s IPL treatments are completed with a process called Lipiflow. The heat-pulsating activators heat the eyelid glands, freeing them from obstructions, squeezing out bad oils that cause dry eyes.
Jennifer says people no longer wonder if she cried and that she can wear her lenses for longer.
“So it opened my eyes to learn that my tears weren’t quality tears. So for me I can tell the difference because I didn’t have any before.” Biggs said.
Dr Swatts says ceiling fans, CPAP machines, and your car’s air conditioning can all contribute to “dry eye disease.” If you have blurry vision or even too many tears, it may be time to see your doctor.
“There are some pretty big effects that can show up in untreated ‘dry eye disease’. One of these being damage to the cornea which is the front window of the eye, ”said Dr. Swatts.
IPL plans cost between $ 1,500 and $ 1,700 and the procedure is not covered by insurance.
But Dr Swatts says some people spend up to $ 400 a month on treatments for dry eyes that don’t get to the root of their problem.