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Dry Eye & LipiFlow

Are your eyes dry, itchy, irritated, or sensitive to light? These are a few of the most common symptoms of chronic dry eye syndrome. Having dry eye can be scary, but it doesn’t need to be. There are many treatment options for dry eye available at Ellis Eye in San Jose, CA.

What is Dry Eye?

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Dry eye is a common disorder related to eye’s tears. Dry eye can occur because of the environment that you’re in or because of the quality and quantity of your tears. If dry eye is not treated, it can become a chronic problem that affects your vision.

There are three layers in the tear film that covers and protects the eye:

  • The outer oily (lipid) layer produced by the meibomian glands. It prevents the watery layer from draining too fast.
  • The middle (aqueous) layer produced by the lacrimal glands. It is watery and nourishes the eye with proteins.
  • The inner (mucin) layer spreads the watery layer over the entire eye.

Dry eye often occurs when the eyes do not produce an adequate amount, or you produce low-quality tears. Without enough tears or low-quality tears, it’s difficult for the eyes to stay moist.

What are common symptoms of Dry Eye?

  • Eyes appear red or inflamed
  • Stinging or burning sensation
  • Eyes feel scratchy or itchy
  • Blurry vision
  • Contact lens discomfort
  • Eye pain

What causes Dry Eye?

There are many causes of dry eye. One of the things that make dry eye confusing is the symptoms overlap with other conditions. This is why you need an eye exam to be diagnosed with dry eye.

Some dry eye occurs when the eye is not producing enough tears. Common reasons are:

  • Side effects of medications
  • The natural aging process and menopausal changes
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and other autoimmune disorders
  • Not blinking enough when you look at screens

Another major cause of dry eye is the evaporation of the tear film. This often triggered by:

  • Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)
  • Exposure to windy, smoky, or dry environments
  • Eyelid inflammation

Testing for Dry Eye

If we think you may have dry eye, we’ll ask you to complete a brief questionnaire. This questionnaire will check if you have any lifestyle or environmental triggers.

One of our doctors will perform special tests to measure how long it takes the eye to make tears. They will also test the volume and quality of your tears.

Treatment for Dry Eye

For some patients with mild symptoms, making small lifestyle changes can help. These can include:

  • Applying a warm compress over your eyes
  • Using artificial tears
  • Using gels and ointments before bed
  • Cleaning and scrubbing your eyelids
  • Increasing blinking and taking short breaks when reading and using the computer
  • Asking your doctor about changing medications to reduce side effects
  • Adding Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet

Ellis Eye & Laser Center offers various treatments for Dry Eye Disease:

  • LipiFlow
  • LipiScan

Prescription medications

If lifestyle changes don’t work, your doctor may recommend prescription medications. A commonplace to start is with prescription eye drops.

These are often used in combination with or instead of artificial tears. Prescription eye drops can help decrease inflammation. They can also help the eye produce more natural tears.

Punctal Plugs

There are a variety of tiny punctal plugs used to plug the tear ducts and keep tears in the eye. Punctal plugs are either semi-permanent or permanent. If they don’t work, our doctors can easily remove them.


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Lipiflow is a treatment for dry eye caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. Blockage of these glands can cause the eyes to appear red. MGD can cause irritation, soreness and dryness. Lipiflow is only used for dry eye sufferers with meibomian gland dysfunction. This is because Lipiflow targets the meibomian gland.

How does Lipiflow work?

Lipiflow is a device that uses thermal pulse technology. This technology applies heat and gentle pressure to the eyelids.
Sterile “activators” are placed under and over the eyelids. When the activators are in place, the doctor begins the treatment.
The machine applies heat and gentle pressure to the inner eyelids. This is called Vectored Thermal Pulse (VTP).

A therapeutic motion is then applied to the outer eyelids at the same time. The actual procedure takes less than 15 minutes.
Lipiflow treatments unblock the meibomian glands and allow them to produce lipids again.

Is Lipiflow painful?

The procedure is not painful. The adaptors used never make contact with the surface of the eye.

Many patients describe a sensation that’s like a gentle massage to the eyes. Patients may experience minor discomfort for the first hour after Lipiflow. This goes away quickly.

Is Lipiflow safe?

Yes. Lipiflow is a medical device approved for use by the FDA.

Like most treatments, there are certain eye conditions where Lipiflow shouldn’t be used. This includes if you’ve recently had an eye injury, surgery, or infection. Our doctors can discuss the benefits and risks of Lipiflow and your eye conditions.

What Should I Expect After Lipiflow?

You shouldn’t expect immediate results after Lipiflow. The glands need time to start producing the oily protective film. It can take 6-8 weeks before the greatest effect and your symptoms improve.

At this point, many patients experience relief of eye discomfort as a result of Lipiflow.

The positive effects of Lipiflow usually last about 12 months. Although the treatments are not permanent, the procedure can be safely repeated.

Looking for relief from your dry eye symptoms? Schedule your dry eye appointment at Ellis Eye in San Jose, CA today!

Download the Patient Booklet to learn more about LipiFlow.