Dry Eye Disease Patients Have Options
Dry eye disease affects millions of patients and is diagnosed when either the quantity and/or quality of the tear layer is abnormal. Since our tears maintain the health and function of the external eye, the abnormal production of tears often leads to inflammation on the surface of the eye. These factors can cause many uncomfortable and often frustrating symptoms, including dryness, burning, itching, foreign body sensation, blurry or fluctuating vision and red eyes.
Eye Surgeons Associates patient, Ardith, has struggled with this condition for years. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 23 years old, Ardith found that one of the symptoms that corresponded to this diagnosis was dry eye.
“I’d been going to Iowa City for doctor appointments because, during the late ‘70s, there were no rheumatologists in the Quad Cities. While I was there they also checked my eyes,” Ardith recalls. “When Dr. Arbisser opened his practice in the ‘90s, I switched to him and also found a new rheumatologist in Quad Cities. Dr. Arbisser prescribed RESTASIS™ back then and it was a miracle drug! I found immediate relief from dry and scratchy eyes and also used Refresh eye drops over-the-counter to help in between.” RESTASIS™ combats dry eye disease by helping the eyes produce healthier and more abundant tears.
After several good years managing the dry eye, Ardith determined that she needed additional help managing her symptoms. Dr. Arbisser retired and she became a patent of Dr. Boehm. It was at this time that he suggested the insertion of punctal plugs in her lower left and right tear ducts. For some patients, a tiny plug is inserted into a tear drain opening in the lid, which can keep tears on the eye’s surface by slowing the rate of drainage from the eye. This procedure is called punctal occlusion. This method provided relief for a couple years and then the symptoms became unbearable again.
“Things were going along well for a while after the punctal plugs. And I could help keep my eyes moist at night by using Systane gel. It was about every two years and then I needed to find an additional solution. After the punctal plugs, Dr. Boehm tried cauterizing the upper tear drain opening and that helped start tear production within a day for several months. “He was amazing and didn’t just kick me out after a few months or a year. We just scheduled visits closer together until we could find the next solution for relief. Dr. Boehm is thorough, tenacious and wants to do things right. He wasn’t going to let me give up,” Ardith proclaims.
The most recent treatment soon to be available at ESA for dry eye disease, True Tear®, is an FDA approved nasal neurostimulation device that can be an alternative to treatment with artificial eye drops. Because multiple ocular and medical factors are involved, a comprehensive eye examination with your ophthalmologist is recommended to discuss dry eye disease and treatment options. With mild dry eye, artificial tear drops can be used to supplement reduced tear production and help treat symptoms. Nutritional supplements such as flaxseed or fish oil capsules may also be beneficial.
“So much has changed in the last 15 years and continues to change with treatment options for dry eye due to new biologic drugs,” Ardith explains. “They help you stay active and feel better. It’s a good time to be alive! Make an appointment today if you struggle with any kind of eye-related problem. There are so many things that can help you feel and see better. Keep asking and be honest about your symptoms. It’s the only way you’ll get any help.”
Dr. Boehm is a board certified ophthalmologist at Eye Surgeons Associates with a fellowship in cornea and external diseases with a special interest in dry eye. He practices at our Bettendorf, Silvis, and Rock Island offices. Eye Surgeons is an Accredited Dry Eye Center.
The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.