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YOUR HEALTH: Don't lose sight of "dry eye's" seriousness

It's one of the top reasons people go to the eye doctor

LAKE VILLA, Ill. — Burning, tearing, blurry vision. 

About 6 million people in the United States suffer from dry eye disease

If left untreated, dry eye can cause irreversible damage. 

But now there's a new wearable device that is giving dry eye sufferers immediate relief.

"I like to work around the house a little bit, always getting into something," said eye patient Bill Casey.

But he couldn't find relief for his dry eye disease and it could sometimes make his work environment uncomfortable.

"I'm an airline pilot so oftentimes the cockpit environment is a little drier. In the environment that we're at, we want to have the best vision possible."

Ophthalmologist Dr. Melissa Bollinger has heard it all before.

"The most common cause of dry eye is a blockage in the oil glands in the lid."

If left untreated, it can make your eyes more susceptible to infections and have poorer outcomes after eye surgeries.

"They'll continue to go from mild stage to moderate stage to severe stage where they lose the glands completely," explained Dr. Mitchell Jackson, founder of Lake Villa, Illinois-based Jacksomeye. 

"Then they become so symptomatic later that there are no treatments for them anymore."

Now a new device is helping dry eye suffers find relief when eye drops don't work. 

It's called TearCare and it's a wearable thermal device that goes over the eye lids.

"It heats up the oil glands to an optimized temperature and then we actually express the glands and they become unobstructed," said Dr. Jackson.

TearCare's Procedure

Retreatment with the Sight Sciences TearCare System is said to be a safe and effective treatment for dry eye disease. 

The TearCare System is indicated for use in meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), dry eye, and blepharitis. 

The TearCare treatment allows the patient's eyes to remain open and blinking during the procedure. 

Soft, flexible thermal devices conform to the eyelids to deliver a therapeutic level of energy for a specific period to liquefy meibum, an oily coating on the eye surface which prevents tear film evaporation. 

TearCare includes two flexible eyelid devices placed on your upper and lower eyelids. 

They are made of a soft, flexible material that conform to your eye's natural shape and sit comfortably throughout the procedure. 

Unlike other treatment methods, TearCare allows the patient's eyes to remain open and blinking throughout the procedure.

The procedure takes about 15 minutes plus prep time and patients can feel the effects right away.

It did for Bill Carey.

"Before the dry eye treatment, I was probably lubricating up to maybe ten times a day and after the treatment, maybe once or twice."

TearCare is offered in Rockford.

TearCare is not currently covered by insurance and one session costs about $700.

The effects of TearCare usually lasts for about a year, so patients will have to get repeat treatments.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.