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Device Could Offer Relief For Dry Eye Sufferers

Studies Found 15-Minute LipiFlow Application Can Work For Up To 3 Years

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A breakthrough device may provide some much-needed relief for the estimated 25 million Americans who suffer from dry eyes.

Dry eye sufferers often feel like they have something in their eyes and complain of scratchy, red eyes.

As CBS 2′s Dr. Max Gomez reported, drops often don’t help much. But a new device to treat dry eye has provided some patients with relief.

The two main types of dry eye come from a lack of tear production or clogged oil glands in the eyelids.

“Blinking. Continuous blinking all the time, all the time and then you feel the dryness,” dry eye patient Cecille Armstrong said.

Armstrong said the dryness was blurring her eyesight and drops and warm compresses didn’t help much.

She had the common type of dry eye where she didn’t have enough oil in her tears, Gomez explained.

“The normal quality of this liquid should be like olive oil. But a patient with this disease will have something more pasty, like lard,” said Dr. Victor Perez of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

Tears all by themselves evaporate very quickly. To keep the eyes moist, tears mix with an oily substance from glands in the eyelids which slows evaporation, explained Gomez.

In Armstrong’s case, the oil was too thick and her glands were clogged. As a result, her eyes got dry, red and scratchy.

A new device called LipiFlow has helped Armstrong unclog her eyelid glands.

A soft contact-like device is placed under the eyelids after an anesthetic eyedrop. This heats the inside of the eyelids, warming the oil glands.

At the same time, the LipiFlow device applies gentle pulsating pressure to the outside of the lids.

“It’s kinds of like milking a cow. It does it with the right pressure. This doesn’t hurt,” Dr. Perez said.

The combination of warmth and pressure unclogs the glands, adding oil to tears and keeping the eye moist.

A single 15-minute treatment had Armstrong back to normal.

“Confidence, relief. I became a normal person. I can read, I can drive,” said Armstrong.

In clinical studies, a single LipiFlow treatment lasted as long as three years, depending on the patient. The application can be repeated.

But, Gomez noted, so far LipiFlow isn’t covered by insurance and a treatment will run about $2,000.

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