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YOUR HEALTH: Irritatable eyes? Watch what you’re watching

More Americans are reporting eye irritation thanks in part to electronic devices. Now there’s one treatment that can help.

MIAMI, Florida – High tech is causing a higher incidence of eye illnesses.

Thirty million Americans suffer from dry eye thanks, in part, to the increased use of our digital devices.

Robin Pearsall is an avid reader. But ten years ago, she couldn’t enjoy a good book.

Pearsall said, “It got to where I felt I had sand in my eye, felt gritty, which is very uncomfortable.”

Turns out Pearsall suffers from dry eye, a condition on the rise.

Chandra Mickles, Associate Professor & Coordinator of Dry Eye Care Center at Nova Southeastern University, says the symptoms are more than just annoying.

“Dryness, scratchy eyes, they feel like something is in their eye, we call it foreign body sensation,” Dr. Mickles said.

She says up to 80 percent of people with dry eye suffer from a common condition called MGD or meibomian gland dysfunction.

“They produce the oil that prevents the tears from evaporating,” Dr. Mickles said.

Up until now, doctors would have to manually push on the glands to get the oil out.

Now new technology is changing that.  It’s called Lipiflow.

“It’s actually pressing on the glands with a gentle pressure to express them,” Dr. Mickles explained.

FDA approved Lipiflow works by heating up the oil in the glands and then gently expressing them.

The entire process takes 12 minutes.

“The studies show that it lasts 12 months,” Dr. Mickles said.

Lipiflow is not covered by insurance yet.

Pearsall said, “I know I’m taking as good care of myself as I can, and I’m buying peace of mind.”

MORE FROM DR. CHANDRA MICKLES:   “The way it works is that it’s basically bringing that oil that’s more like butter consistency to the appropriate melting point so now it’s more oil-like, liquefied, just like if you would heat butter on the stove. And then at the same time what’s important in treating that meibomian gland’s dysfunction it’s also expressing the gland.   So you’re heating up the oil but you’re also expressing them.   The way that is done with the LipiFlow it’s actually automated, actually pressing on the glands with a gentle pressure to express them.   So that’s what’s really unique and innovative about the LipiFlow it’s expressing the gland and heating it at the same time and doing both eyes at the same time.   So there’s no really other device right now that I know of that does that.”

Dr. Mickles says if dry eye is left untreated the glands could die and then it’s too late to treat.

Right now, one Lipiflow treatment costs between $900 and $1,500 dollars depending on the center.

Dr. Mickles recommends patients continue lid hygiene at home such as using warm compresses in between 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.