New research at ophthalmology practices has prompted a team of biomedical engineers to focus on relief for a common condition known as “dry eye.” Michael Ackermann, PhD in biomedical engineering, and his new company are testing two tiny devices – implantable neurostimulators – that painlessly increase natural tear production by delivering micro-electrical pulses to the lacrimal gland. One of the devices is actually placed into the mucous membrane in the nasal cavity. The other device being tested is inserted below the eyebrow under the skin. Tear delivery rates are adjusted manually with a wireless controller. While the device is not on the market as yet, Ackermann believes it will be available in the near future.
It is estimated that more than 20 million Americans suffer from dry eye and it is one of the most inadequately treated, painful conditions seen by ophthalmologists every day.
When you blink, healthy eyes are lubricated with tears — a mixture of oils, water, proteins and mucus. This fluid helps protect and moisturize the eyes, and the thin film that it creates is necessary for clear vision. Dry eyes become vulnerable to painful abrasions of the cornea, which can distort vision.
The challenge for doctors is that dry eye can be caused by a number of factors, including meibomian gland defects, medication side effects and hormonal changes caused by pregnancy or menopause. It is also associated with some immune-system disorders. But it is frequently triggered when the lacrimal glands don’t create enough tears to lubricate the surface of the eye.
Eye Clinic of Austin has become a center of excellence in Central Texas when it comes to the treatment of dry eye. Tear production is just a part of the equation and if you believe you have dry eye, please make an appointment with an ophthalmologist who can diagnose what type of dry eye you are experiencing as well as offer relief with more than one type of treatment.