With no single treatment regime, dry eye disease, is difficult to treat creating frustration for both optometrists and patients.
Early recognition of the symptoms of dry eye disease are important so do not let the discomforting symptoms continue until they become painful and debilitating.
We speak with two Eyecare Plus optometrists, Glenn Vessey and Denise Lee, who discuss the treatment process of dry eye disease.
Often underdiagnosed, dry eye is quite a common eye condition. Many people who have the dry eye symptoms are often not aware that they have them. Studies show that the prevalence of dry eye increases with age, occurring in up to 30% of elderly people.
The Treatment Processes
Glen Vessey, an optometrist for more than 30 years, has been particularly focussed on the treatment of dry eye disease since 2013.
“The equipment and technology we have to diagnose and treat dry eye disease has improved markedly over the last five to10 years… and we are steadily finding new ways to improve its diagnosis and management.
“It is essential to accurately diagnose the condition. Correct classification of the type of dry eye is equally important,” says Glenn.
During the eye examination, your optometrist will look for signs of the disease and ask you questions about their symptoms, including grading their symptoms.
“Once the optometrist accurately diagnoses and classifies the condition, the next step is to determine the most suitable treatment regimen for each patient,” says Glenn.
This leads to a more detailed discussion about dry eye disease and prescribed management.
Optometrist Denise Lee says that “mild cases of dry eye disease are prescribed lubricating eyedrops, whereas moderate to severe cases are invited to return for further testing to ascertain what other management and treatment options should be done.”
Treatment options include “a variety of medications (both prescribed and over the counter), Intense Regulated Pulse Light (IRPL), Blephasteam, heat compresses on the eyes, expression of the meibomian glands and natural oral supplements to improve tear production,” says Glenn.
“As a chronic eye condition,” Denise points out that it is important for patients to be educated, specifically, about “how to slow down its progression”.
Dry eye disease can become “debilitating for some, and difficult to manage in the advanced stage,” she says.
In the past, management for dry eye disease involved lubricating drops, gels, and ointments, as well as bandage contact lenses and punctal plugs. Glenn Vessey states that, “if we diagnosed someone with dry eye we simply treated the condition by giving the patient additional (artificial) tears, which only treated dry eye symptoms, not the cause of the dry eye (the tear glands not producing enough tears).”
Now there are many more treatment options for dry eye.
“Now we identify those patients who would benefit from unblocking, stimulating, and rejuvenating the tear glands; reversing the process by which the glands become blocked, stop producing tears, atrophy and eventually die off. This not only provides improvement in the dry eye symptoms but reverses the deterioration of the disease over time.”
Denise Lee says that, “modern day management encompasses a myriad of options depending on the type and severity of dry eye disease”.
Treatment options today include “meibomian gland expression, intense pulse light, scleral contact lenses, amniotic membranes and drops, blood serum drops, and new formula eyedrops that target inflammation, infection, and immune suppression.
As well as these, Denise Lee uses “LipiFlow and Rexon-Eye dry eye treatments”. LipiFlow is an automated thermal heating massaging system and Rexon-Eye is a non-invasive cellular regeneration treatment.
Individual Treatment Options
Dry eye is a multifactorial disease.
The treatment of each person with dry eye disease is unique to their own situation.
Glenn Vessey implores that, “accurate diagnosis of the type of dry eye is essential.” Once that is achieved the best possible treatment can be tailored to the individual patient’s condition using a combination of treatment options.
When seeing an optometrist, you need to ensure that “they are continually updating their knowledge and skills relating to diagnosis and treatment of dry eye disease,” says Denise.
Dry eye is one of the most underrated diseases.
Symptoms in severe cases can be debilitating and have a detrimental impact on a patient’s lifestyle. Like many diseases, prevention is the best form of treatment.
If you want to find out more about dry eye disease book an appointment to see your local Eyecare Plus optometrist.