Dr. Charles Stewart wholeheartedly admits, he doesn’t have a lot of patience for discomfort. When the symptoms of chronic dry eye syndrome began adversely affecting his daily life by impeding his ability to read, study, counsel parishioners at his church or enjoy the outdoors, Dr. Stewart set out on a journey to find relief. “When you have dry eye syndrome, your eyes seldom stop screaming at you. It became difficult to do my job and enjoy life,” he says.
Dr. Stewart isn’t alone either. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 1.68 million men and 3.2 million women in the United States, ages 50 and above, suffer from dry eye syndrome. While age and being female are big factors, the No. 1 risk factor for dry eye syndrome is the environment.
Todd J. Agnew, O.D., Key-Whitman Eye Centers’ Clinical Director of Optometric Services says, “The dry climate and prevalence of allergens in North Texas exacerbate dry eye symptoms for many people in the Metroplex. Another common issue is many people who suffer from dry eye syndrome don’t get an accurate assessment regarding the specific type of dry eye they are experiencing. Consequently, many people are not receiving appropriate treatment.”
Over-The-Counter Eye Drops Can Be Ineffective
In the Fall of 2013, Dr. Stewart began experiencing the dryness, itching, grittiness, stinging and general eye fatigue associated with dry eye syndrome. According to Dr. Stewart, “Initially, I tried over-the-counter eye drops and would only get temporary relief. So after three months of putting up with the symptoms, I made an appointment with my optometrist.”
At that point Dr. Stewart was diagnosed with chronic dry eye syndrome, and his optometrist at the time prescribed Restasis® eye drops and artificial tears. “I followed the regimen religiously for 6 months. I was told the Restasis should slowly increase my tear production, but I wasn’t getting any relief. I was feeling discouraged, frankly, thinking I would have to tolerate this discomfort for the rest of my life,” Dr. Stewart shares.
LipiFlow,® A New Procedure For Treating Dry Eye, Offers Hope
About that time, Dr. Stewart, who is Pastor at Cana Baptist Church in Burleson, Texas, says, “I was speaking with a church member about my struggles with dry eye symptoms. She had heard about a new procedure for treating dry eye called LipiFlow® from family members and suggested I look into it. So I went on the Internet, and Key-Whitman was one of the few eye care centers in the area that offered the procedure. Since my optometrist didn’t offer LipiFlow, I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Agnew.”
Dr. Agnew began treating Dr. Stewart in the summer of 2014. “There are two main reasons people suffer from dry eye syndrome. They either suffer from an oil layer deficiency or a water layer deficiency in the tear film, and some patients suffer from both,” he says.
An Innacurate Dry Eye Diagnosis Postpones Relief
“Studies vary, but they indicate oil layer deficiency accounts for 60 to 85 percent of dry eye related issues and water layer deficiencies account for approximately 30 percent or less. Restasis works well for some patients who need to improve the water layer in their tear film, but it doesn’t help the majority of patients, like Dr. Stewart, who have the oil layer deficiency form of dry eye syndrome,” Dr. Agnew explains.
“When I met with Dr. Agnew he said he would look specifically to see if my meibomian glands were producing any oil. He discovered my glands were blocked and not producing any oil. When he said I was a candidate for LipiFlow, I was grateful, because I was so discouraged by that point,” Dr. Stewart says.
The meibomian glands create the oil layer in the tear film. If the oil glands don’t function properly or get blocked, the patient can experience dry eye syndrome, because their eyes are not receiving adequate lubrication and the water layer evaporates more quickly.
“If there is any dysfunction in the tear film layers of the eyes, it can affect eye comfort and vision clarity. What LipiFlow does is, it actually internally heats the eyelid to about 42.5 degrees Celsius (or 108.5 degrees Fahrenheit). That internalized heat to the lid sustains heat for about 12 minutes to help melt the waxy meibom oil that gets blocked in the meibomian glands,” Dr. Agnew advises.
A Thorough Dry Eye Assessment Can Aid Proper Diagnosis And Treatment
Prior to LipiFlow, Dr. Agnew says, “What we used to do for patients with oil layer deficiency was prescribe warm compresses to get heat to the lid and express the oil out of the eye’s oil glands. But the compresses typically weren’t effective in producing enough sustained heat to make a difference.
Tranquileyes Beads Goggles, which you heat in the microwave and can sustain heat for 10 to 12 minutes, provide a better option, but LipiFlow has by far produced better results. Since Key-Whitman began offering LipiFlow nearly two years ago, we haven’t had to retreat any patients with the procedure, so the results are very encouraging. At the same time, some patients with dry eye may respond to other treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, artificial tears, ointments,vitamin supplements (or nutraceuticals) such as Omega 3s and Omega 6s, serum tears and more. A thorough eye health exam and dry eye assessment by an dry eye specialist is your best course for finding a treatment plan that works for you.”
“I knew my eyes were better, because I had not thought about my eyes all day, I had not used eye drops all day and I hadn’t given it a thought until my wife asked me. Today, I’m just so excited to be on a new journey to healing,” Doctor Stewart says.
Dry Eye Sufferers Should Contact A Dry Eye Specialist For Help
If you suffer with symptoms of dry eye syndrome and haven’t been able to find relief, it may be time to reevaluate the root cause of your condition and seek alternative treatments. Schedule a comprehensive eye health exam and dry eye assessment with an eye care professional experienced in the treatment of dry eye syndrome to tackle your dry eye challenges today.