I’ve had dry, itchy eyes for years, but assumed this was just an occupational hazard.
My decades-long career in publishing has had me staring at digital devices for hours at a time, including designing the layout of this magazine you’re reading right now.
I wear contacts regularly and switching to glasses alleviates some discomfort, but I still find myself reaching for those over-the-counter eye drops more than I should. Limiting my screen time isn’t realistic because of my job, so I figured it was time to consult with my eye care professional.
Last fall, I made an appointment with Dr. Louis Bahoshy at Stoney Creek Eye Care, 40 minutes outside of Toronto. After a compassionate and thorough consultation process, he recommended a new and revolutionary treatment for my dry eyes.
Dr. Bahoshy described it as a safe and reliable procedure already being used for years in Europe. It had just been approved in Canada and was the first glimmer of hope in my years-long battle.
The E>Eye by I-MED Pharma treats patients using Intense Regulated Pulsed Light (IRPL®) therapy.
I was in a private room, reclined in a comfortable chair with some protective goggles like the ones you wear in a tanning bed. Dr. Bahoshy also applied some soothing gel on my upper cheeks and then it was time to let the E>Eye do its thing.
Dr. Bahoshy administered five quick flashes of light at each upper cheek to stimulate the parasympathetic nerve, which controls the meibomian glands. These glands produce the meibum, or the oil layer, which is paramount in keeping our tears stable.
According to Dr. Bahoshy, many dry eye patients are suffering because these glands have stopped working efficiently or sometimes because they’ve become clogged from years of neglect.
The IRPL® therapy attempts to kickstart the gland and help contribute to a more stable tear film. Several studies have also shown that IRPL® can even regenerate some of the glands that may have started to die off.
During the procedure, I felt a slight prickling sensation and intense warmth on my cheek. Amazingly, the whole process was over in less than five minutes.
Many patients require three or four treatments over the course of a few months to experience the long-term benefits of IRPL® therapy.
Thankfully, I was able to achieve some immediate relief after my first appointment.
Dr. Bahoshy ended up prescribing me just four treatments in total. It has now been five months since I first underwent IRPL® therapy and I’m happy to report that my eyes are feeling better than they have in years.
Patients have reported maintaining results anywhere from six months to three years, but Dr. Bahoshy says it’s easy to schedule another maintenance visit if I start to feel any discomfort.
I-MED Pharma has an entire line of products dedicated to fighting dry eye disease and I was lucky enough to try out some of these complementary treatments in the comfort of my own home. Those include I-MED’s artificial tears made without preservatives, a daily cleansing gel for your lids and lashes as well as a hot and cold therapy eye mask.
And here’s something else that will make IRPL® therapy sound more like a spa treatment than a dry eye treatment. It has been known, in some cases, to reverse the signs of aging by smoothing out some wrinkles in the area where the treatments are administered.
So, if you happen to notice smoother skin along with dry eye relief, I’m told that’s no extra charge.
Q&A with Dr. Bahoshy
- Why are so many people suffering from dry eye these days?
- We’re on screens all day, compounded with the fact that everybody is working more while they’re stuck at home. Research shows that when we stare at laptops or phones that we tend to blink less. Every time we blink, our meibomian glands contract and produce a small amount of meibum or oil into our tear film and if we’re not blinking enough the oil glands get clogged up and start to lose function and atrophy, leading to meibomian gland dysfunction. There are many other factors that contribute to chronic dry eyes including blepharitis, aging, hormonal changes, medication side-effects, certain systemic conditions and environmental factors.
- Why is the E>Eye such a great asset for any ECP?
- Intense Regulated Pulsed Light® therapy as it relates to dry eye treatment results in the meibomian glands in our eyelids working much more efficiently. The higher-quality oil layer leads to a more stable tear film with improved eye comfort and more stable vision. By allowing our own body to produce a higher-quality tear film to properly lubricate our eyes, we are less dependent on artificial tears and other dry eye supplements. As a bonus, the E>Eye has a small footprint. It only weighs 20 pounds and you can plug it into any standard electrical outlet. We’re a small clinic and those factors were important when we were deciding on the suitability of this technology for our clinic. It was so easy to set up. The rep hand-delivered the device. We just plugged it in, tapped through some menus and that was it. Training my staff didn’t take long at all either.
- What makes the E>Eye superior to competitors?
- Each of the five flashes from the E>Eye is actually eight mini flashes and this is what separates I-MED’s device from the traditional IPL therapy. The E>Eye uses patented Intense Regulated Pulsed Light®. Each of the eight mini flashes within the primary five flashes are specifically calibrated and the energy delivered is equal from the beginning to the end of each pulse. Other traditional IPL devices start at a peak energy and kind of die off before the end of the flash. With the E>Eye, you get a more targeted energy per flash. This technology has been developed from the ground up to specifically target and stimulate the meibomian glands. The current protocol calls for 3-4 sessions to achieve the desired long-term outcomes. Each session involves five flashes per eye targeting the parasympathetic nerve which innervates the meibomian glands of the eyelids. The flashes of intense pulsed light are applied to the upper cheek area just under the eyes and not the eye itself as they are covered by protective metal goggles. The procedure is very comfortable and pain-free and there is no down-time for the patient.
- Why is using some brands of eye drops on a regular basis not recommended?
- A lot of over-the-counter drops are preserved with benzalkonium chloride, also known as BAK, and using too much of that can actually lead to more irritation. Some people also fall into the trap of using “get the red out” drops. These drops will temporarily constrict your blood vessels, diminishing the appearance of redness and the eyes will temporarily appear more white, but if you use these drops too often their effectiveness tends to diminish over time. In addition, they are only providing a temporary cosmetic effect and not properly lubricating the eyes and stabilizing our tear film. I-MED’s line of artificial tears, I-DROP®, is made without preservatives. The bottle is designed with a one-way valve, which eliminates the possibility of any product re-entering the bottle. This greatly reduces the chance of contamination and negates the need to use preservatives in the product.
- What kind of feedback are you getting from patients?
- I’ve been getting great feedback from patients, especially the patients that have tried a whole bunch of other stuff and they’re just not getting the relief. Patients are generally much less symptomatic and in many cases become symptom-free. Patients tell me their eyes don’t feel gritty, sandy or watery anymore. Patients’ eyes also appear to be noticeably whiter and this is especially the case with those who suffer from ocular rosacea. This procedure also helps close off some of the engorged and dilated blood vessels on the eyelid margins. For some patients who suffer from more moderate to severe chronic dry eyes, the condition can severely impact their quality of life. It is really great to hear the positive feedback from patients on their follow-up visits and to know that you are making such a positive difference in their lives. As with any procedure, the key is to identify the patients who are good candidates and would benefit from the procedure.
- Does the E>Eye IRPL® therapy REALLY get rid of wrinkles?
- I’ve heard from some other doctors, anecdotally, that they see some smoothing out of wrinkles…kind of like an unintended positive side effect on the treatment area…but your mileage may vary with that!
By Suzanne Lacorte
Optical Prism & EyeFocus