SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — May 29, 2012. Mayo Clinic in Arizona is the first medical center in Arizona and the Southwest to provide a new technology that treats dry eye by targeting blocked eyelid glands. Blocked glands can inhibit production of oil that is necessary for healthy tears needed to lubricate the eyes.
VIDEO ALERT: Click here for footage of the procedure and information from Dr. Shen about dry eye.
People with chronic dry eye, from this evaporative sub-type , often experience pain and irritation caused by an inadequate protective layer of oils in their tears, which creates a cycle where they resort to excessive use of eye drops that can exacerbate the condition, according to Joanne Shen, M.D., Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic in Arizona. "Patients are frustrated in their attempts to find relief, frequently trying warm compresses, ointment, eye drops or even vitamins," says Dr. Shen.
The new treatment, called the LipiFlow thermal pulsation system, represents a significant shift from the traditional management of dry eye, in that the system is able to diagnose and address the root cause of the condition — obstructed meibomian glands. When active, these glands lubricate the tear layer, reducing friction caused by the constant rubbing of the eyelids on the eyeballs and providing relief from symptoms such as itchiness, redness, gritty sensation, burning and sensitivity to light.
An in-office evaluation of the patient's oil glands determines eligibility for the treatment. The exam includes assessing the severity of symptoms, measuring oil layer thickness by interferometry and observing the number of functioning oil glands in the lower eyelid margins. If eligible, based on this three-part part exam, the patient moves to the next step in the treatment — unblocking the oil glands.
An FDA-approved, patented, single-use sterile device resembling an eyecup is placed over the eye while the patient reclines. During a 12-minute period, the device produces a warm, gentle, pulsating massage to the lower eyelid to relieve the blocked meibomian glands. The treatment aids the glands in resuming release of oil with every blink, which is needed for a healthy tear film.