Liquid bandage for dry eye

Do your eyes ever feel scratchy and sore like you just don't have enough tears? As many as 20 million Americans suffer from some degree of dry eye syndrome. Although artificial tears and ointments help many patients, for some, symptoms are so severe that their eyes sting or feel like sandpaper, and nothing relieves the discomfort.

Now, doctors at Duke University are offering those patients something new, and pretty simple, to relieve the pain.

Jamie Harwood is a woman on the go, but when she developed dry eye a few months ago. "It really changed my life,” said Harwood.

Her eyes got so irritated and painful she didn't want to leave home.

"People stopped asking me to go places and do things, because they knew I would just turn them down because of my eyes,” explained Harwood.

Today, she's trying out a new pair of contact lenses, but for Jamie, they're not to help her see, they're to help her severe dry eye disease.

Filled with fluid, the lens vaults over the cornea, landing on the white sclera of the eye.

Dr. Jill Bryant of Duke University explained, "the vaulted section is filled with a sterile no preserved saline which acts as a liquid bandage to cushion the cornea."

This dry eye contact is much larger than standard contact lenses, custom made with or without vision correction. The lens can be worn all day every day just like a regular contact.

Now, thanks to her new contacts, Jamie can use her eyes for the really important stuff. More fun, and no more pain.

"I'm really myself again. It's given me back my life,” said Harwood.

Not everyone with dry eye should wear these lenses. It is made for the more severe cases that don't get relief with drops and other conventional therapy.

This is not a lens you can buy online, it has to be custom fitted. Measuring the eye for these prescription lenses costs about a thousand dollars, and the lenses themselves can be three hundred dollars or more, depending on the clinic. Most insurance policies don't cover the lenses.


BACKGROUND: The human eye is made up of many layers and films that are meant to coat the eye. According to emedicinehealth, dry eye syndrome (DES) is a disorder of the tear film, affecting many of those aged 40 years or older. Dry eye syndrome can occur if you don't have sufficient tears or if your tear composition is not correct. It is estimated that twenty-five to thirty million people in the United States suffer from dry eye syndrome every year. Furthermore, more women experience dry eye syndrome than men.

CAUSES:? Dry eye syndrome results in either decreased tear production and/or excessive tear evaporation, usually caused by mucus found in the tear level (s). If the eyes are not producing as many tears as once before, this could be a result of old age, hormones, or autoimmune diseases such as: lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Antihistamines and antidepressants are good treatments that decrease the level of tear production your body makes. While doing simple tasks such as reading and watching TV, you do not blink as often, thus leaving time for your eyes to dry out and lack moisture. Furthermore, if there is an infection along the eye or eyelids, bacteria may settle in and dry eye syndrome may occur. (Source: emedicinehealth)

SYMPTOMS: Although dry eye syndrome is common, emedicinehelth says many people do not know what signs and symptoms to look out for. Here are just a few:
* Blurred vision
* Light sensitivity
* Burning or itching of the eyes
* A feeling like you have a foreign body in your eyes
* Dry/gritty feelings in the eyes

A CLEAR SOLUTION: Researchers have discovered a new way to treat dry eye syndrome -- a contact lens that is custom made with or without a prescriptive need for the contacts. These new lenses are filled with fluid. The lens covers the cornea of the eye and stops at the white part of the eye. The part that covers the cornea is filled with a sterile saline solution that helps protect the eye and cushion the cornea, almost like a protective, liquid bandage.

Jason Beatty
Duke University
(919) 684 -9855

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