(RxWiki News) Dry eyes are commonly treated with eye drops or ointments. For patients with a persistent form of the condition, a brief in-office procedure that requires no recovery is increasing in popularity.
Treatment with the LipiFlow thermal pulsation system produces results within days by unblocking oil glands in the eye lids and lasts up to one year.
These blocked glands inhibit oil production needed for healthy eye-lubricating tears.
"Talk to an ophthalmologist about chronic dry eye."
Joanne Shen, MD, an ophthalmologist with Mayo Clinic in Arizona, one of a handful of facilities offering the newer procedure, said that patients with chronic dry eyes are often frustrated with attempts to find relief through warm compresses, ointment, eye drops and vitamins.
Chronic dry eye often causes pain and irritation because patients have an inadequate protective layer of oils in their tears. Excessive use of eye drops to relieve the symptoms can worsen the discomfort.
Following an evaluation to diagnose obstructed meibomian glands and to determine whether LipiFlow thermal pulsation is appropriate, the patient is reclined and a device resembling an eye cup is placed over the eye.
The procedure itself lasts about 12 minutes, during which a warm, pulsating massage of the lower eye lid is performed to clear the obstruction.
The treatment is designed to ensure that, upon completion, oil is released with each blink to prevent friction and rubbing.
Unlike invasive surgical procedures, patients can go home shortly after the procedure and require no recovery time.
Results can be felt within days and the treatment lasts up to one year. Repeat therapy can be performed once effectiveness wears off.
“Dry eye symptoms are among the most common patient complaints when they visit their eye doctor,” says Dr. Shen. “The condition can affect activities in their daily lives such as driving, using the computer, watching TV, hiking or wearing contact lenses. Early evaluation and appropriate intervention can keep eyes healthy for a lifetime.”
Dr. Christopher Quinn, an optometrist with Omni Eye Associates, noted that eye doctors have been watching the treatment to determine its effectiveness.
Though LipiFlow thermal pulsation system was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last summer, the device is still not widely available in the U.S.
"We have been watching this new technology closely and await well performed randomized clinical trials to see if this new treatment modality is a success," Dr. Quinn said. "Since this new technology is still considered experimental it is not covered by insurance and patients must pay the significant costs of the procedure out of pocket."
The procedure can cost between $1,500 and $3,000 out of pocket if not covered by health insurance. Most insurance companies still are considering the procedure "experimental" and do not cover it.