Patients with Dry Eye are frequently as frustrated with their diagnosis as their eye care professional. After all, treatment options have been sorely limited for the eye redness, burning, irritation and discomfort that seem to never go away. Sure, there is some short-term relief from home remedies, including warm compresses, but nothing that really lasts. For those of you that live with Dry Eye, you understand the distress of having to keep eye drops close at hand each and every day just to achieve fleeting relief. Prescription medications do work for some, but even these must be used daily.
The Dry Eye moniker, well, it’s getting old. Why? Certainly it is not because Dry Eye is only an affliction of older adults. As a matter of fact, I know of a 32 year old colleague who can’t wear contacts because of Dry Eye symptoms. As it turns out, she is no exception. The Dry Eye moniker is getting old because, over the past 15 years, Dry Eye’s most common cause has been revealed as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) and it often starts long before the discomfort occurs from Dry Eye symptoms. The scary part is that, if MGD is not caught early, the result can be permanent, irreversible damage to the glands in the eyelid. When that happens, treatment is much more challenging; there is no turning back time.
Why is this the old way of thinking you ask?
To put it simply, most of us associated Dry Eye with lack of tear production, but in 86% of cases, it is not the tear-producing lacrimal glands that are the problem. Can you hear it now: “Are you kidding me, I thought my tears were the issue.” Well, my friends, that kind of thinking is so 2000 to eye doctors across the world and many patients alike. Rather, it is the tiny meibomian glands located in the eyelids, producing necessary protective oils, that are the primary problem. Over time, these glands can become blocked and stop producing the oils that the tear film needs to protect the watery layer in your eyes. When these blocked glands are left untreated, they essentially stop working and, when that happens, here comes the inevitable: annoying, uncomfortable Dry Eye symptoms.
I Thought I Had Dry Eye?
You do have Dry Eye, or more accurately, if you are in the uncomfortable majority with Dry Eye symptoms, you most likely have Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, or MGD as we in the business call it, and that is what caused your Dry Eye. MGD is the undisputed leading cause of Dry Eye by a long shot and it is treatable. One word of caution, catch it early and don’t let those glands stay blocked for too long and not just for the sake of your eye health. While your eyes no doubt need the oil to flow freely to protect your tear film, it is more serious than that. MGD is progressive and, over time when not treated, the glands will literally begin to disappear, never to be seen again. That is why screening for MGD is essential at early ages, but immediately necessary for those who currently suffer from seriously irritating and sometimes debilitating Dry Eye symptoms.
MGD Is Yesterday’s Dry Eye.
If you’re reading this and you have been told you have Dry Eye or, maybe you just accepted a long annoying life of rubbing your eyes, tears and redness, here is some news: eye care professionals are now seeing Dry Eye in a different light. Literally. Technology today allows a clear picture of the Meibomian Glands. MGD can be treated in a short office visit lasting no longer than a regular eye exam. The technology to treat MGD was not available ten short years ago and the research about MGD was only brought to the forefront around the turn of this century. That is why millions across the world are breathing a sigh of relief, or, shall we say, blinking an eye of relief.
Ask your eye doctor to screen for MGD. It is essential to long-term eye health. Because what used to be only thought of as Dry Eye is now understood to be MGD. So you see, MGD is so 2000. Find out more before it’s too late.