BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine sheds light on dry eyes
On Monday 17th May, Jeremy Vine interviewed GP Sarah Jarvis and Jenny Éclair about dry eye syndrome. The interview shed light on what can be an extremely debilitating condition. Listeners also phoned in with their experiences and advice on the subject. There was a lot of good information on offer but some that need a little more explanation. Here we offer our expert opinion on some of the things that were discussed and also the latest treatments for dry eyes.
One listener mentioned the amazing goggles that produce heat and steam to help unblock meibomian glands and naturally improve the lipids in the tears. GP Sarah Jarvis mentioned the benefits of using heat to open up these glands and explained how microwaveable eye bags work to ‘loosen’ the oils.
Blephasteam goggles are far superior to using a heat mask or warm flannels because they produce regulated heat over a set period of time. Research shows that if you don’t apply enough heat, the meibomian will not be melted enough to be released and if you apply it too hot then this causes inflammation and therefore closes these important glands further. The Blephasteam is therefore at the perfect temperature to avoid both these downfalls. In addition, studies have found that Blephasteam treatment improves visual acuity (vision) after use whereas hot compresses actually reduced visual acuity. In addition, limbal redness, and eyelid redness were improved after Blephasteam use but not after treatment with compresses.
After using the Blephasteam it is important to gently massage the lids to help release the meibomian oils.
Blephasteam goggles are available to purchase here.
Drops and Gels
Preservative-free drops were mentioned a lot during the programme. In our experience preservatives are a no-go for anyone with dry eyes and certainly, new treatments mostly do not have preservatives. Eye drops are changing all the time and one of the latest ones has had phenomenal success for our patients. Jenny suggested trying lots until you find the right ones for you, but this approach often leads to years of unsuccessful treatment.
Dry eyes are caused by an imbalance of your tear film. The tears should have certain amounts of oil (lipid), water (aqueous), and mucus. If you have too little or too much of any of these then the balance can be upset and can cause dryness, overwatering, grittiness, soreness, and poor vision. Most eye drops focus on one or two particular layers of the tear film. If you use the wrong ones, you can upset the balance further or need to use them too much as they may be diluting the natural oils you have. During our dry eye consultations, we see people who have spent decades trying to manage their condition either by themselves or through numerous hospital, GP, or ophthalmologist appointments with little success. The key to reversing this is to find out the exact cause of your problem and therefore the most appropriate solution. Our assessments use the very latest technology (only available at a handful of locations in the UK) to scan the layers of your tear-film and your glands to precisely measure the problem areas. We can then closely monitor the effectiveness of your treatment going forward.
You can re-order drops and gels here.
Mental health and Dry eyes
Dry eyes can be extremely debilitating. Sadly, during the programme, one listener told how he has been left suicidal with the pain and discomfort of dry eyes. Having run dry eye clinics for over 15 years we have met many clients whose dry eyes are having a significant impact on their daily activities and mental health. The pain and discomfort can stop people from working, driving, and enjoying outside or holidays. Our clinics give us the time to listen to your specific needs and help you to improve your dryness. The change in people’s mental health and outlook after receiving productive treatment is a joy to see.
Refractive laser surgery and dry eyes
Many younger people are suffering from dry eyes as a result of laser refractive surgery. We only ever recommend refractive surgery in extreme cases as it can cause side effects such as dryness and poor vision for driving at night.
There are many new contact lenses that can improve vision without spectacles and are suitable even for people with dry eyes. Please book in for a contact lens consultation to find out more.
Eating the right balance of omega 3 and 6 and other oils can help to improve your meibomian production. Many of our clients have found an improvement by taking supplements designed specifically for dry eyes alongside their other treatments. You can find out more and purchase here .
Following your dry eye consultation, we can also provide further advice on lifestyle, diet, etc to help you manage your dry eyes.
Lipiflow and E-eye
In the BBC Radio 2 interview, Jenny Eclair mentions having Lipiflow treatment which has been used in dry eye treatment since 2011. The Lipiflow provides heat and gentle pressure to squeeze out meibomian from blocked glands and used to be the go-to treatment for meibomian gland dysfunction. There is a newer treatment called E-eye (available since 2016) which according to our clients who have tried both is far more comfortable (in fact there is no discomfort aside from a slight warming sensation for a few seconds). E-eye uses IPL (intense pulsed light) to both heat and stimulate the nerves that produce meibomian to help you achieve better secretions. It is quick and comfortable with lasting results. The course involves 3-4 treatments over a few weeks and can last for up to 2 years. Treatment leads to a reduction in the need for drops with some people becoming ‘drop free’ after. Watch a video about E-eye here .
The programme touched on how computer and screen use can cause or exacerbate dry eyes. With more of us working on devices this is becoming more of a problem. We have several things that can help, including specific computer spectacles and coatings. Book into our dry eye clinic for your tailored advice.
Jenny Eclair mentioned how she has had punctal plugs fitted. This is something we offer in practice for clients with a particular type of dry eye disease (usually those with aqueous deficiency or Sjrogren’s syndrome). For the right candidate, they can be very successful.
A deep clean treatment for blepharitis has proved popular for more stubborn cases of the condition. Available in practice, please ask at your dry eye consultation for more details.
GPs and dry eyes
Some GPs have good knowledge of dry eyes- like Dr. Sarah Jarvis- but they are limited in the examination equipment they have and therefore treat mostly based on symptoms and brief examination. There is also a limit on what treatments can be provided on the NHS.
In eye hospitals, the equipment is better than in GPs (I do not know of any that used the most advanced IDRA diagnosis that we have in practice) unfortunately appointment time is often limited and other conditions can be given greater precedent. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital time and resources have been limited to urgent problems. Dry eye treatment requires frequent monitoring and advice to make sure your condition is controlled as well as possible. Unfortunately, through the NHS, often treatment is given and then not followed up on so it is difficult to ascertain what treatments work or how long you should be doing things for. Our aim is to get you on the least treatment necessary to maintain your dry eyes going forwards.
What is dryness?
Dry eye is a very common condition, affecting up to 40% of the population at some time in their lives. It is particularly common in those over 40 and is more common in women than men. It can be caused by hormone imbalance, autoimmune disorders, medications, environment, and host of other factors. The condition causes symptoms such as gritty feeling eyes, irritation, burning, itching, blurred vision, eyes sticking together at night, and, surprisingly, watery eyes. The best treatments are individually tailored to your particular condition.
You should seek treatment for dry eyes even if they are not bothering you too much as long-term dryness can cause corneal and eyelid issues later in life.
Book a dry eye assessment now for your in-depth examination, consultation, and treatment plan. We offer two different dry eye assessments. The advanced (£350) lasts 1 hour and the standard (£220) lasts 45mins. The difference is in the advanced assessment we use new technology (IDRA) to scan your tear film and perform extensive examinations which enables us to establish exactly what layers of your tear film are causing your symptoms and therefore treat more precisely and with greater confidence as even tiny improvements or changes can be detected with this new technology. The standard examination relies on us performing examinations without the use of this latest technology but is still extremely thorough.
Call 01634 240645 to book your dry eye assessment today.
Visit www.eyestuff.co.uk for all your dry eye products.