Doctors shine a light on painful eye problem

June 2, 2010 9:37:32 AM PDT
Dry eye is a condition in which there are insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision, according to the American Optometric Association. Dry eye impacts nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population, primarily older adults.

Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of infection, wash away foreign objects in the eye and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. The most common form of dry eye is due to an inadequate amount of the water layer of tears. This condition is called dry eye syndrome. People may experience irritated, gritty, scratchy or burning eyes, a feeling of something in their eyes, excess watering and blurred vision.

CAUSES: Dry eye is part of the natural aging process. Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives and menopause. Certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants can also reduce the amount of tears produced in the eyes. Exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms. Finally, long term use of contact lenses can be a factor, as well as refractive eye surgeries such as LASIK.

TREATMENT: Traditionally, prescription eye drops or ointments help decrease inflammation around the surface of the eyes. However, for those who don't find relief with drops or who tire of putting drops in their eyes several times a day, there's a new light therapy being used by some doctors. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) can improve symptoms and the meibomian gland's function in the eye. The applicator is applied below the eyelash margin. Bright light acts as a powerful warm compress to liquefy the secretions plugging up the oil-secreting meibomian glands. Additionally, the IPL reduces inflammation. "So unlike just using supplemental drops which really doesn't treat the condition -- it just helps with the symptoms -- the light therapy actually helps the cause of the dry eye," Joseph Eviatar, M.D., FACS, of Chelsea Eye & Cosmetic Surgery Associates in Clarksville, Tenn., told Ivanhoe.

IPL is not FDA approved to treat dry eye. It is FDA approved to treat skin problems like rosacea and acne. It is typically reserved for patients with light-colored skin since the intense light can damage darker skin tones.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Chelsea Eye & Cosmetic Surgery Associates
(212) 727-3717


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