It’s no secret that goggles are a fashionable accessory for keeping the eyes dry – but what you may not know, is that there are also special types of goggles that can treat dry eye!
Dry eye – whetting the appetite
It’s likely that you have heard of the condition ‘dry eye’. It doesn’t require a whole lot of detective work to sleuth this one out: it’s simply when the film of tears covering the front surface of the eye is inadequate. There are several possible causes of dry eye. One of these involves inflammation and blockage of the ‘Meibomian glands’.
My what?? We all know about the glands in our necks and armpits, but did you know that you have glands in your eyelids? In fact, there are around 30 of them in each upper and lower eyelid! These glands produce oils which form the outermost layer of our tears, or ‘tear film’ as we call it. Imagine a bottle filled with oil and water, where the oil settles out at the top, and holds the water layer in place below. This is what happens in your tears – the oily layer serves to seal the tear film, holding the other layers beneath it in place, and thereby preventing evaporation of our tears.
OMG – MGD
When the Meibomian glands are healthy, they produce a clear, smooth liquid with an appearance similar to olive oil. However, if the glands become inflamed and cease to function properly, the oils thicken and become yellow in colour, often having a texture like toothpaste. This is known in tech-talk as ‘Meibomian gland dysfunction’, or MGD.
In those who have MGD, the oily layer of the tears is no longer able to hold the underlying fluid in place, resulting in evaporation. The volume of tears on the eye decreases and the concentration of salts in the tears rises – and everyone knows what opening your eyes in salt water feels like! This salty environment becomes toxic to the front surface of the eye, leading to cell damage. As the cells degenerate, the nerve endings at the front of the eye are exposed to external forces such as wind and irritants in the air, leading to the symptoms of dry eye. These symptoms may range from mild irritation and grittiness to light sensitivity, blurred vision and the feeling that there is not just a drop of salt water, but a whole beach of sand in the eye!
Hence, when the signs of MGD are observed by your eye doctor, it is important to treat the issue to prevent cell damage, and the symptoms of dry eye from occurring.
The hot goggles
An effective treatment designed to unblock the Meibomian glands is called the ‘Blephasteam’. This is also affectionately known by some of our patients and staff members at KindSIGHT as the ‘Hot Goggles’. This procedure involves a pair of goggles similar in appearance to swimming goggles…and equally, if not more, enchanting. These little beauties have an inbuilt heating mechanism, and are pre-heated before being placed on your face for about 10 minutes. A humid environment is created, which serves to melt the oils in the meibomian glands. If you are able to see past the fact that you look as though you’re about to swim a 400m race, or fly an airplane from the early 1900’s, many report that this is actually quite a relaxing experience.
Unfortunately, the procedure doesn’t end there. If we were to simply melt the oils, while it would be quite a lovely, refreshing experience, there would be no benefit to the blockage of the glands. Once the oils in the glands began to cool, they would simply solidify and block the glands again. The idea is to express the unhealthy oils from the glands, and allow these to be replaced by clearer, healthier oils.
As they say, there is no gain without pain – in this case, fortunately, that’s an exaggeration! Numbing drops are placed in the eye to make the process more comfortable, and a special pair of tweezers is used to press lightly along the upper and lower eyelids, expressing the oils from the glands. If you are having this procedure performed, and are interested in seeing if your oils are at the olive oil or toothpaste end of the spectrum, ask the clinician to take some pictures…if you are game. You may be very surprised by the result!
Depending on the quality of the oils expressed, it is usually recommended that you have a few of these procedures, several weeks apart.
DIY – give it a try!
It is a great idea to supplement your Blephasteam treatment with some at-home beauty therapy. A similar procedure can be carried in the comfort of your lounge room, using a heat pack to replace the hot goggles.
- Warm a heat pack in the microwave
- Test heat of compress on inner wrist before applying
- Place over closed eyes for 10 minutes
- Express the glands by lifting the top eyelid away from the eye and pinching between the forefinger and thumb
- Repeat along the length of the top eyelid, then repeat along the bottom eyelid.
If you have dry eye issues, contact KindSIGHT to schedule a consultation for an assessment to determine if Blephasteam may help reduce your symptoms!