Dry eye is a common and often chronic condition many people need treatment for. Depending on the cause of your dry eyes, your eye doctor may recommend LipiFlow to relieve your symptoms. If they recommend this treatment, how does it work?
Continue reading to learn more about LipiFlow, including what it is and how it works.
What Is Dry Eye?
Dry eye disease, commonly known as dry eye, occurs when your tears cannot adequately hydrate your eyes. Your tears help protect your eye’s surface, but complications can arise and affect their ability to function at their best. Many people assume dry eyes are a one-time experience, but almost 16 million Americans live with chronic dry eyes.
If your tears can’t keep the eyes hydrated, it can lead to several uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Eyes that sting or burn
- Stringy mucus around the eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Eye redness
- Foreign object sensation
- Watery eyes
- Blurry vision
- Eye fatigue
While dry eyes can develop for many reasons, they stem from issues with your tear film.
Your Tear Film
The oil layer of your tear film comes from the meibomian glands around the edges of your eyelids. They supply oil to help prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly.
The water layer consists of water and salt, cleaning the eyes by washing away debris and irritation. This fluid comes from your tear glands.
The mucus layer helps tears spread evenly across your eye’s surface. One or more of these layers can have problems, leading to dry eye.
What Causes Dry Eye?
Dry eyes occur because of problems with the tear film. One or more of its layers can experience complications, leading to decreased tear production, increased tear evaporation, or a combination of both.
Decreased Tear Production
Decreased tear production occurs when your body lacks the water to create enough tears. The most common cause of decreased tear production is age—tear production naturally slows down with time. Besides aging, other causes of this form of dry eye include:
- Medical conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome or lupus
- Medications like antidepressants, pain relievers, & antihistamines
- Desensitized corneal nerves
Increased Tear Evaporation
Increased tear evaporation occurs when your tears dry out too quickly. Your tears evaporate quickly when the meibomian glands are blocked or clogged, which then results in a shortage of oil normally produced by the glands.
Common causes of increased tear evaporation include:
- Meibomian gland dysfunction
- Infrequent blinking
- Eyelid problems like ectropion & entropion
- Eye allergies
- Preservatives in over-the-counter eye drops
- Wind, smoke, or dry air
- Vitamin A deficiency
Meibomian gland dysfunction is one of the most common causes of increased tear evaporation. The meibomian glands become blocked, leading to inflammation and dry eyes.
Because of the effect meibomian gland dysfunction can have on your eyes, many people seek relief. Your eye doctor has several treatments available—one being LipiFlow, a specialized treatment designed to address the meibomian glands.
What Is LipiFlow?
LipiFlow is a treatment eye doctors recommend to relieve dry eye symptoms caused by increased tear evaporation. This treatment uses heat and massage to melt and express the meibomian glands, reducing dry eye symptoms. It can relieve dry eye symptoms in up to 12 minutes.
How Does LipiFlow Work?
LipiFlow treatment has 2 parts, heat and massage. One part of the machine looks like a contact lens that warms your eyelids. The second part of the machine connects to a shield and rests on the eye to express oil from the meibomian glands.
Your eye doctor will give you a mild anesthetic to increase comfort and fit the LipiFlow device in place. The device heats your eyelids while keeping the eye safe, warming the oil in the meibomian glands to make them easier to express. The second part of the device gently squeezes your eyelids, releasing clogged oil from the glands.
While LipiFlow is safe, there’s always the risk of side effects, such as irritation, as you recover from treatment.
Is LipiFlow Right for You?
While it’s an effective treatment, LipiFlow isn’t right for everyone’s dry eye needs. You may not benefit from LipiFlow if your dry eyes don’t stem from meibomian gland-related issues. Your eye doctor can determine the best treatments for your needs during a comprehensive eye exam.
LipiFlow is automated and effective, providing long-term relief from dry eye symptoms. However, there’s always the possibility you don’t see improvement from this treatment. One study found that 20% of patients didn’t experience any improvement from LipiFlow—this treatment may not be beneficial if you have severe dry eye.
Relieve Your Dry Eyes
You don’t need to settle for a future of dry, irritated eyes. Your eye doctor is here to help, recommending the best treatments for your needs. They can relieve your symptoms, with LipiFlow or another treatment option.