Dry Eyes, Blepharitis, and MGD Treatment with Dr. Jenna Zigler
Over 30 million Americans suffer from dry eye disease, and this number is only increasing. A lot of this may be due to an increase in screen time, but poor food choices and poor health choices in general can also play a role. Today, I’m talking with Dr. Ben Weitz about this condition and why it’s so important to adopt healthy lifestyle habits as a way to combat this disease.
Common Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease
For those who suffer from dry eyes, the symptoms can be devastating and really interfere with so many areas of life. The following are common symptoms:
The feeling of something in your eyes
Redness of the eyes and eyelid margins
Crustiness of the eyelashes
There are two forms of dry eye disease; Aqueous deficient and evaporative dry eye disease. Aqueous deficient dry eye is due to a deficiency in the lacrimal gland, which produces the watery portion of your tears. Major factors that contribute to this include aging, LASIK or other refractive surgery, certain medications, and any disease that affects the lacrimal gland.
Evaporative dry eye is more common and is due to issues with the meibomian glands, or the tiny oil glands within your eyelids. In some people, the glands can completely atrophy. Bacteria on the eyelids build up and eventually enter the meibomian glands. This blocks the oil from coming out, causes it to stagnate, and eventually atrophies the glands. While our bodies naturally have bacteria all over them, an overpopulation can be a problem.
Treatment for MGD and Dry Eye
We’re starting to see MGD in younger patients (kids and teens) because of an increase in screen time. It’s well known that we blink less when we’re in front of a screen or when reading in general, and this lack of blinking can contribute to stagnation of the oil within the meibomian glands. If you’re someone who works on a screen all day, make sure to take breaks throughout your day and consciously blink.
Another effective therapy uses heat to help melt the oil within the glands, allowing it to flow more freely. This can be accomplished a few ways. First, there’s LipiFlow which can be performed in your doctor’s office. This thermal pulsation device not only applies heat but pressure to your eyelids as well. Learn more about LipiFlow here.
Applying heat at home can also be an effective maintenance therapy. Simply heat up a warm compress eye mask and lie it over your closed eyelids for 10-20 minutes, reheating as necessary. Doing this regularly may keep the oils flowing and keep your tear film healthy and intact.
This is an important part in the treatment of dry eye because bacteria can become problematic for many people (staph in particular). Make sure that you’re removing your makeup every single night with an oil-based makeup remover or another natural remover. We prefer to recommend oil-based products because they generally contain less chemicals that could harm the eyes.
Next, wash your face with a tea tree oil soap. Tea tree can be beneficial for those with rosacea, demodex eyelash mites, and other inflammatory skin conditions. After washing your face, use a hypochlorous acid eyelid cleanserto ensure you’re keeping your eyelids and lashes nice and clean. This product is a substance that’s made naturally by the body and it’s gentle enough to use around the eyes. A spray on each closed eyelid twice per day is all you need.
Hydration and Diet
When your body isn’t properly hydrated, your cells cannot work properly. Work with your doctor on this, but we recommend drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day (that’s 75 ounces for a 150 pound person). In addition to this, a simple way to quickly optimize your diet is to replace your breakfast with a green smoothie. This will flood your body with hydration and nutrients first thing in the morning and help you avoid all of the horrible foods many people consume for breakfast. Click here to learn more about changing your diet to improve your overall health and that of your eyes.
With everything going on today, stress can be a huge player in our lives. When you have increased, chronic stress, this increases your cortisol levels. While cortisol is actually helpful for anti-inflammation of the body, it begins to be ineffective when there is too much around for too long. Simple lifestyle changes can help here. First of all, make sure you’re moving your body throughout the day and for at least 30 minutes per day. This could be biking, running, walking, swimming, yoga, or whatever else you prefer that gets your heart rate up.
In addition to exercise, practice mindfulness. To us, this means being aware of how you’re feeling and reacting to things throughout the day. If you find yourself stressing out, maybe you should step away and read for a while, meditate, or write in a gratitude journal.
The Role of Demodex
Demodex live on humans and burrow into your eyelash follicles. Most people do have some level of demodex, but this is a normal part of being a human being. It’s when they become overpopulated that it becomes a real issue. They reproduce quickly, feed on bacteria and skin cells, and begin to contribute to inflammation of the eyelids and eyes. One thing we know that can control demodex is tea tree essential oil. We recommend purchasing a product that contains tea tree, such as atea tree eyelid wipe, which can help decrease the demodex population. Make sure you’re not using tea tree essential oil directly on your skin or eyes, as this can cause a reaction.
Omega-3 Supplement Benefits
There have been numerous studies on triglyceride-based omega-3 supplements for the eyes. Although there was some controversy after the DREAM Study results were released, we believe this study was flawed. Review of the literature on this topic shows that omega-3s are beneficial for dry eye disease, improving many of the signs and symptoms.
Make sure to choose a triglyceride-based omega-3 which is better absorbed and of higher quality. We recommend starting at 2000 mg per day of omega-3 and seeing how you feel from there. It’s also important to increase healthy fats in your diet in general, and we recommend using organic extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil in your baking and cooking.
Overall, managing dry eye disease does not have to be a complicated process, but it does sometimes require lifestyle changes. Taking care of your eyelids, eating healthy, drinking enough water, and managing stress can all help you battle this disease.