Confession time: some days, I’m embarrassed by the screentime report on my iPhone. Six uninterrupted hours? That’s like watching Titanic twice!
My mom used to say that watching too much TV would rot my brain. While I'm pleased to report that my noggin’s doing fine, my latest visit to the Optometrist revealed that my eyes weren’t.
If you clicked on this blog, you probably know the punchline: I was diagnosed with dry eyes (and I’m only 24!). These weren't just any dry eyes, though; I had severe Meibomian gland dysfunction. Chalk up 1 for screentime and 0 for Olivia.
Does it really work? Does everyone with dry eyes need to get it? Does it hurt to have weird-looking goggles pulsate on your eyes for 12 minutes? Keep reading to find out.
Dry Eye Symptoms
First things first: how do you know if you have dry eyes? It’s a tricky question to answer because, for some people, it’s asymptomatic. That’s why visiting an Optometrist every two years is something you should always stay on top of... even if you don’t feel like it.
Some symptoms of dry eyes can also fly under the radar. Personally, I thought frequent headaches and tired eyes were just the norms. In reality, it was my body’s way of saying “hey, lay off the screen time!”
Other symptoms of dry eyes include red, watery, painful, or itchy eyes, the feeling of something being stuck in your eyes, tearing (especially in cold, windy conditions), mucous, sensitivity to light and blurry vision. If you experience one or all of these, you should definitely visit a pro. They’ll perform a dry eye assessment to figure out if you might need treatment.
Dry Eye Treatment
So, what happens after an Optometrist says you do have dry eyes? According to Dr. Amy Law, treatment looks different from person to person. It’s largely dependent on your symptoms and how damaged your Meibomian glands are.
To recap, your Meibomian glands are responsible for secreting the oily layer of your tear film. This oil is important because it keeps your eyes lubricated. When you stare at a screen, you blink less often because you’re concentrating. Less oil makes your tears evaporate quicker, which means (you guessed it), dry eye symptoms.
Not blinking enough is also dangerous because it damages your Meibomian glands. You can think of them like a toothpaste tube — when you squeeze it, the toothpaste comes out – just like how when you blink your eyes, the oil is expressed.
When you don’t blink, however, the oil has nowhere to go. It gets backed up, becomes thicker and can even create blockages. (Ever left a tube of toothpaste out without the cap on, then tried to squeeze some out a few weeks later... only to realize the toothpaste at the top had gotten all hard and crusty? It’s kind of like that.)
The longer this goes on, the more damage it does to your glands. There are different levels of Meibomian gland atrophy you can experience as pictured below. For patients with more severe cases, Lipiflow is one of the #1 treatment options an Optometrist will recommend. Here’s what went down during my Lipiflow appointment.
On the left, 3 images of Meibomian glands and the varying levels of atrophy they can have. On the right, a scan of my Meibomian glands. Healthy glands should almost go to the full length of the lower lids, like the image at the top. However, my glands had started to deteriorate and the deeper layer had atrophied resulting in them only being half the length of healthy glands.
My Lipiflow Experience
The first thing Dr. Amy Law did was take a quick scan of my eyelids. This is to make sure there aren’t any irregularities and that it’s safe to proceed with the treatment. She used some wipes to clean any external debris left on my eyes, then we moved into the treatment room.
The Lipiflow machine is pretty neat to look at, and much to my surprise it’s very comfortable, too! I sat down in the chair (which is basically a recliner) and put my feet up on the accompanying footrest.
Dr. Amy put numbing drops in my eyes, which didn’t feel any different than a regular eye drop. Then, she showed me the Lipiflow applicators and told me how they worked before putting them on.
“The guards protect the eyeball, and the eyelids go on top,” she explained. The applicators didn’t hurt, and they weren’t uncomfortable either. It basically felt like she was putting an individual goggle on each of my eyes.
She used tape to secure them to my face (again, which felt like nothing) then hit start on the machine. I felt the applicators begin heating up, which actually felt pretty soothing. It was similar to wearing a comfortably warm sleep mask!
Then, I felt the goggles start to pulsate on my eyes. It was a gentle pressure that went back and forth, from left to right on each eye. Not painful or uncomfortable – and honestly, it kind of just felt like a tiny person marching on my eyes. I zoned out for the next 12 minutes!
“The guard heats up to about 42-43 degrees, and then the silicone pad starts to pulsate,” she explained. “The pulsating gives the lid a bit of a massage, which breaks down the oil congestions.”
Once the 12 minutes were up, she removed the applicators and did a reassessment. “This is just to make sure everything’s good and check on the glands,” she told me. “Sometimes, right after therapy we already see some oil flow – which is good – but it depends on the patient.” Lucky for me, she reported that my eyes were already producing more. (Take that, screentime!)
Home Remedies for Dry Eyes
The last step of my Lipiflow appointment was getting a prescription for home remedies. There are a variety of tools and products Dr. Amy Law prescribes to her patients after Lipiflow based on how bad their symptoms were and other lifestyle factors.
For me, she prescribed:
- I-MED MGD – Enhanced Relief Eye Drops. These kept my eyes lubricated while my glands were recovering.
- Lotemax Eye Drops. These are anti-inflammatory, so they alleviated my symptoms and helped my glands recover.
- I-RELIEF Hot & Cold Therapy Mask. This is a mask I put in the microwave and used for ~10 minutes each night to improve my oil flow.
- I-VU Omega-3 Plus Nutritional Supplements. These are soft gels that I took twice a day to increase the Omega-3's in my diet (which are great for eye health).
I’ll be sharing more details in an upcoming blog about how I managed my symptoms after Lipiflow.
How to Cure Dry Eyes Permanently
Whether you have dry eyes, suspect you have dry eyes, or you’re just doing research... you’re probably wondering if they can permanently be cured.
It’s a tricky question to answer because it depends from person to person. A big factor is how dysfunctional your Meibomian glands are. If they become severely damaged, they’ll die off, and unfortunately, they don’t grow back. In that case, you’d have to rely on using eye drops for the rest of your life.
If you deal with dry eye symptoms (but still have your Meibomian glands), there are many treatment options that can provide relief. Lipiflow is one of the leading-edge solutions for dry eyes on the market, and I can safely say my eyes feel significantly better now that I’m done with my procedure. I have fewer headaches at the end of the day, my eyes feel less tired, and I actually feel like I can concentrate more at work!
But taking care of my eyes didn’t stop when I left the Optometry clinic. I still use my heated eye mask once a week and Dr. Amy Law taught me how to blink properly. I also follow her recommendations on taking breaks from screentime.
If you don’t have dry eye symptoms yet, you should do everything you can to prevent them. It’s smart to act now so you can avoid damaging your Meibomian glands (and possibly needing Lipiflow treatment) in the future! Learn more about how to prevent dry eyes.
At HealthOne, our Optometrists Dr. Amy Law and Dr. Andrew Liangare experienced in treating dry eye symptoms. As one of the best dry eye Optometry clinics in Toronto, it’s their goal to not only treat your dry eyes but educate you about the best ways to avoid them. I’m glad I visited the clinic when I did so I could catch my dry eyes early before things got even worse.
One Life. Live Inspired.