New dry eye treatment uses light therapy

    Dry eye is a common problem that can be painful and disrupt your life. Some describe it as feeling like you have sand in your eyes.  Others say it stings and burns.  It can cause red eyes, make it hard to wear contact lenses and make it hard to drive at night. Eye drops, or artificial tears, are the most common treatment, but now a form of light is treating the problem, without ever touching the eyes!
    We met up with patients, Maya Montgomery and Ginger Allbright at Houston Dry Eye Clinic, who both underwent a treatment that may be new to treat dry eyes, but has been around a long time for dermatological problems.  It's interesting to witness them undergo a treatment on their face to treat their eyes.  
    It's because doctors have learned that rosacea often leads to dry eyes.  "That is when you have the little fine blood vessels on your forehead, cheeks, nose, and sometimes chin, and those are an inflammatory response.  They feed inflammation to your eye, so people get dry eye, what they think is dry eye, but it feels bad," explains Dr. Allan Panzer, a therapeutic Optometrist with Houston Dry Eye Clinic.  "It affects me very severely, because when it comes to being able to drive or conduct myself during the day, with a lot of squinting, tearing, and pain," says Maya.  
    All of those small blood vessels on the face, that are so obvious with rosacea, feed right to the eyes.  It can even prompt a condition called ocular rosacea, which is obvious with red vessels in the eyes. "The glands plug up, then don't produce oil.  The tears are three layers:  oil, water, and mucus, if you don't have sufficient oil, the water evaporates, you're left with mucus and a sensation and a measurement of dry eye," says Dr. Panzer.
    Dr. Panzer has treated dry eye for decades, but usually with prescription drops.    He's excited to now offer this treatment called IPL.  It looks like a laser, but is actually intense pulse light, to help close those small superficial vessels.  This in turn not only makes the rosacea look better, but also reduces the sensation of dry eyes.
    Maya is happy it doesn't hurt.  "The flash and then the light, then warmth, but it's not painful," she says.  
    Ginger Allbright also underwent IPL and was a little surprised at the "rubber band pop" feeling on her face.  She's ready to put an end to her dry eye syndrome.  "I'm hoping that especially when I wake up, they're so dry, hoping that it will make them feel better in the morning," she smiles.
    Insurance doesn't cover the treatment, at least yet.  It costs about $400 each time, and takes at least four treatments. Dr. Panzer says the problem will return, without follow up treatments. He says in comparison, prescription eye drops for dry eyes often cost $500 a month, which could be a problem that lasts for life.
More information about Intense Pulsed Light Treatment   and the Houston Dry Eye Clinic