‘Sauna' for your eyes: Help for people suffering dry eye

HOUSTON – According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than three million women older than 50 suffer from dry eye syndrome. 

One local optometrist, Dr. Bridgitte Shen Lee of Vision Optique, said it is spreading to more people - and younger – driving them to search for relief.

Dr. Shen Lee said she blames the problem on an increase in screen time.

“When you're looking at a smaller screen, it's sending signal to the brain because we're not moving our eyeballs as much,” she said. “The smaller the screen, the less our eye lateral movement, so it sends a signal to the brain and the brain says we don't need to blink as much.” 

She said glands in the eyelid can become damaged, dysfunctional, and disappear.

“Where you see just empty space, that means the gland is completely gone,” Shen Lee pointed out in pictures of patients with dry eyes. “You have one [gland] left here, and one left here and this kid is only 13 years old.”

When eye drops fail, she encourages a treatment in her officer called Lipiflow.

A cup goes over the patients’ eyeball, holds heat on the lid and pulses to try unclogging the glands. Lee said to think of it like a facial for the eyelid.

“It's a 12-minute treatment where it heats up to a certain temperature, melts all the clogged oil, the hardened oil, and it sucks it out and just completely clears the glands,” she said.

Lee said patients notice a change almost immediately.

She warns not to ignore dry eyes. If you go years without treating the symptoms, she said they will get worse.

The treatment Lipiflow may not be covered by insurance, so make sure to consult with your doctor.