New, non-drug treatment offers relief for dry eyes

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A new treatment for dry eye called Lipiflow takes about 12 minutes to apply and the relief can last 12 months.

Thirty million Americans suffer from dry eye.

In fact, the condition is on the rise due to our overuse of digital devices. Now, new technology may offer some relief to those dealing with chronic dry eye.

Like Robin Pearsall. She's an avid reader. But a few years ago, she couldn't even enjoy a good book.

Pearsall said, "It got to where I felt I had sand in my eye, felt gritty, which is very uncomfortable."

Turns out she suffers from dry eye.

Optometrist Chandra Mickles says the symptoms are more than just annoying.

"Dryness, scratchy eyes, they feel like something is in their eye, we call it foreign body sensation," Mickles said.

She says up to 80 percent of people with dry eye suffer from a common condition called MGD or meibomian gland dysfunction.

"They produce the oil that prevents the tears from evaporating," Mickles said.

Up until now, doctors would have to manually push on the glands to get the oil out.

Now new technology is changing that. It's called Lipiflow.

"It's actually pressing on the glands with a gentle pressure to express them," Mickles explained.

FDA-approved Lipiflow works by heating up the oil in the glands, which then unblocks them.

The entire process takes 12 minutes.

"The studies show that it lasts 12 months," Mickles said.

Lipiflow is not covered by insurance yet and treatment can cost between $900 and $1,500, depending on where you go.

But Pearsall feels it's worth it.

Pearsall said, "I know I'm taking as good care of myself as I can, and I'm buying peace of mind."

Treating chronic dry eye varies from patient to patient depending on the severity. Sometimes a humidifier or even eye drops will do the trick and is enough to offer relief.

For others, surgery may be required.

And again, depending on how severe the condition is, an ophthalmologist may prescribe treatment medications.

Another treatment option is artificial tear inserts, which are similar to a contact lens.

One thing Mickles does recommend to patients is to continue lid hygiene at home such as using warm compresses in between treatments.
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