CEI: New Treatments for Dry Eyes

CEI: New Treatments for Dry Eyes

Are your eyes itchy, red, sensitive or irritated? You might have dry eye disease.

Statistics show that approximately 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with dry eye disease. Amar Shah, M.D., MBA, and cornea specialist at Cincinnati Eye Institute (CEI), suspects that most optometrists and ophthalmologists would say that number is an underestimate of just how widespread the problem is.

At CEI, Dr. Shah estimates over half of the practice’s patients suffer symptoms that may be attributable to dry eye. This is because dry eye syndrome is not one single disease but rather an umbrella term that includes a myriad of symptoms.

Symptoms can include:

  • Sensitivity to light, contact lenses and driving at night
  • Eye redness, burning, scratchiness, stinging or watering
  • Mucus in or around the eyes
  • Feeling like there’s something in the eyes
  • Blurry vision or eye fatigue

For patients with dry eyes, roughly 80 to 90% of them have a form of the condition called evaporative dry eye. While these patients have enough tears, the tears aren’t lasting as long as they should on the surface of the eye. Dr. Shah says this is “not a problem of quantity of tears, but rather a problem of the quality of tears.” Evaporative dry eye might be from either not enough oil from the oil glands in their eyelids or not having the right consistency of those oils. Trouble with the oil glands can stem from any number of issues. It could be environmental allergies, low humidity, occupational hazards like staring at computer screens, tablets or phones, contact lenses, or medication side effects. In addition, dry eye becomes more common with age.

Innovative Treatments

At CEI, doctors are focused on cutting-edge research and offering the newest treatments to help patients find relief.

The team starts by taking diagnostic tear samples and images of the oil glands to help diagnose the underlying etiology of their dry eye. Often, the common denominator in dry eye symptoms is inflammation. But it’s essential to find the root cause of the underlying inflammation rather than just treating symptoms.

“We have about 20 oil glands per eyelid,” Dr. Shah says. “These images can illustrate if those glands have atrophied or gone away completely.”

One innovative new treatment is called Intense Pulsed Light or IPL, a procedure that can be performed in the office. IPL typically involves a series of treatments spaced 2-4 weeks apart. Using a handheld device, IPL emits quick pulses of light energy absorbed by the blood vessels on the surface of the face or eyelids. These blood vessels become more pronounced in conditions such as rosacea or evaporative dry eye. In fact, its use in ophthalmology was discovered when patients in dermatology clinics received IPL treatments for facial rosacea, and patients reported that their eyes started to feel better.

When oil glands are inflamed, they often get congested or clogged, which means you can’t get oils out of them onto the surface where they should be. In these cases, CEI uses devices like LipiFlow or TearCare, which are in-office medical devices. These tools heat the oil glands and gently massage them to break up any obstruction.

“Another common source of inflammation comes from a condition called blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids that occurs due to debris built up at the base of the eyelashes,” Dr. Shah says. “We have a new in-office treatment that exfoliates your eyelids and eyelashes with a pain-free micro sponge. This drastically reduces the irritating microorganisms and crusting that build up on our eyelashes, rapidly reducing inflammation and improving uncomfortable symptoms.”

Finally, for those patients who do not make a normal quantity of tears on their own, CEI often recommends eyedrops called blood serum tears. “There are a lot of healthy proteins and nutrients in your own tears that aren’t readily replaced with drops off the shelf,” Dr. Shah says. “If you don’t make enough natural tears on your own, there can be a deficiency of those healthy proteins. Another source of healthy proteins is your blood, which is why serum tears are so popular.”

To create blood serum drops, a nurse draws a patient’s blood and sends it to CEI’s compounding on-site pharmacy, where it is made into personalized eyedrops for each patient.

If you have been frustrated with dry eye with little improvement, you don’t have to live with discomfort and irritation.

“Patients usually come to see me after they have tried some of these at-home over-the-counter treatments or prescription eyedrops and are still extremely bothered by dry eye symptoms,” Dr. Shah says. “Once we figure out and address the most causative factors in their condition, the vast majority of patients start to see improvement.”

Are you struggling with dry eye symptoms? Cincinnati Eye Institute can help. Visit cincinnatieye.com or call 513-984-5133 to make an appointment.

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