As the years roll on, things change. Buzz words change. Conditions change. All too often now at The Eye Practice, we hear the term 'Blepharitis' being used for patients with a wide range of eye symptoms.
Who gets blepharitis?
It used to be that we would hear about the condition in elderly people. Now, however, we are hearing it more and more, and the sad part about it is that we are seeing it in younger people, some as young as teenagers. Blepharitis and dry eyes are fast becoming a problem of the twenty first century, and it seems that there is no escaping it if people do not become proactive about it.
Blepharitis is not only associated with dry eyes. It is also associated with meibomian gland dysfunction, styes (also known as hordeolums), chalazions, and rosacea.
Like many conditions of the eye, waiting to feel symptoms before taking action, means waiting too long.
Our heart beats without us thinking about it.
Our lungs work without us thinking about it.
Our eyes blink without us thinking about it.
But in the case of our eyes, do they really blink?
The truth about blinking
How many times have you looked at someone and thought, "are they staring at me?" They are probably not. They are more likely to be slow blinkers and not even know it. We are not aware of our blinking habits. Our lids just blink. In fact even when our eyes are tired and irritated we do not think about our blinking. Why would we? It happens naturally right?
It used to happen naturally but there is nothing natural about it any more. These days our blinking is very much in tune with the amount of time we spend on digital devices. I often ask people how many hours they think they spend on digital devices, and almost every time they underestimate the hours.
Why? Because they only think about how much time they spend on a computer. They do not count the amount of time they spend on their phones or tablets socially and to pass the time. On average today, most people will spend anywhere from 6 to 12 hours looking at a digital device, televisions not included.
So what has that got to do with your blinking?
So much! When we are on a digital device we tend to stare at the screen as opposed to looking at it as we would if we were looking at a book. We are not actually aware of the fact that we are staring. It just happens. As we do this, our eyes start to dry out a little and they try to blink. Because we are looking at a digital device the blink that we finally do is only a partial blink. Like a flutter. Over time, this becomes the new habit. Our eyelids very rarely meet.
Introducing the new breed of staring people...
An epidemic of blepharitis and dry eyes now plagues the Western World. Historically, unless something got in our eyes, we never thought about them. Going about their important job of seeing, eyes did not hurt. In today's world however, eyes do hurt. The pain and discomfort can be debilitating, leaving people unable to work or socialise leading to depression.
Have you ever had to clean your eyelid margin? I doubt it. We clean our faces, we clean our bodies and we clean our teeth, but not our eyelid margins. We see a dental hygienist two to three times a year to ensure that we do not have a build up of plaque on our teeth. Plaque build-up can lead to gingivitis and tooth loss. If we do lose a tooth, we can have it replaced with an implant or a bridge.
Eyes, on the other hand, cannot be replaced.
With changes in our blinking habits, the lid margins are now at risk of a build-up of biofilm which can lead to blepharitis and dry eye disease.
As we blink, the lids join and have a very subtle swiping motion that wipes biofilm away. With our lower number of blinks, and our higher number of incomplete blinks, we are seeing more and more people with a build up of biofilm and sufferers of blepharitis, which eventually becomes the more serious meibomian gland dysfunction.
This problem is likely to reach epidemic proportions as we cannot possibly go through life now without our digital devices.
Best treatment options
Just as we see a dental hygienist, we now need to see an ocular hygienist, who can perform an in-depth clean of the eyelid margin.
Let us introduce a new procedure that generically is termed eyelid debridement. There are a number of techniques to perform this but we believe Blephex is the go-to procedure for the treatment and ongoing maintenance of blepharitis.
The Blephex procedure scrapes the lid margin removing any build up of biofilm, just like the dental hygienist removes build up of plaque (another form of hardened biofilm).
Just as with the dentist, this clean should happen twice a year. And just like the dentist, where you go home and brush your teeth twice a day, the eyes too need to have the appropriate lid hygiene performed at home. Proper instruction on what to use and how to use it can transform your home therapy for this uncomfortable condition.
Eyes should never hurt
When they do hurt, they change your life. Wind becomes a painful assault, air conditioning is intolerable, digital devices and any form of reading is very difficult and make up is out of the question.
If you or any member of your family is spending more than a couple of hours a day on a digital device, now is the time to take action and start an eye hygiene regime to prevent dry eye and blepharitis.