How Warm Compresses Transformed Into An Ocular Innovation

How Warm Compresses Transformed Into An Ocular Innovation

Few stories in the optical industry are as compelling as the story of TearScience and the subsequent conquest of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). And for the millions putting up with the constant irritable symptoms of dry eye and MGD, TearScience is welcomed with open arms, or in this case, shall we say “welcomed with open eyes.”

The introduction of TearScience and its innovative LipiView Diagnostic and LipiFlow treatment technology originated from Dr. Donald Korb and Tim Willis (the two cofounders) and a small research team at, what was then, Kolis Scientific. Dr. Korb had two simple theories in mind:

1. Recognizing the critical role the meibomian glands play in producing oil that ensures we maintain the protective watery layer in the eyes.
2. Knowing there was a better way to treat dry eye than the constant use of hot compresses that only provided temporary relief and had no built-in safety features to protect the eyeball from heat and pressure.

Adding to his quest to find a better dry eye treatment was the chronic, progressive nature of MGD itself. Dry eye almost always begins as a mild irritation that inevitably will get worse without treatment. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), however, was truly a conundrum at that point because no one quite understood how it could be treated.

The Turn of the Century – A Turning Point for Dry Eye Treatment

“At the time, in early 2000, when we began discovery of our first treatments for MGD and subsequently Evaporative Dry Eye, we had no idea of the high prevalence of MGD”, commented Dr. Korb. But that did not deter this visionary inventor and doctor of optometry to find a better solution. The revolutionary LipiFlow technology began with the surprising discovery that the glands could be heated from the inside of the eyelid. This is in direct opposition to all other forms of ‘at home’ or commercially available treatments for MGD that heat the glands from the outside of the lids. Heating the glands from the outside has been standard practice for over 100 years.

Dr. Korb and his colleagues at Kolis Scientific recognized the homeopathic value of heat when properly applied to the glands. They knew that if the heating mechanism could be hotter, more direct and still safe, the treatment would be significantly more effective. This led to the innovative LipiFlow thermal pulsation technology, the first of its kind, which heats the glands from the inside of the lid. Further the heat could be applied at significantly higher temperatures than is possible with a warm compress and is completely safe. Dr. Korb and his team knew they were on the right track after the earliest results.

As continued research and testing ensued, and LipiFlow was established as a viable treatment for MGD and the small research company, Kolis Scientific became Tear Science. In 2011, the FDA cleared the LipiFlow instrument. Along with the advent of LipiView, the most advanced diagnostic instrument on the market for evaluating MGD, the root cause of Dry Eye, a dry eye innovation was brought to market. “We have come a long way from hot compresses to LipiFlow and today we are seeing real results for those with MGD and evaporative Dry Eye” added Korb.

Stay Tuned for part 2 “The Revelation: 95% became 86%”.

For more information on TearScience, the LipiFlow treatment system, Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) or dry eye, visit