Thinking “outside the eye” may be just what the doctor ordered

“Think outside the box” became a popular catchphrase meaning to think of a new, innovative concept. Now, eye doctors are “thinking outside the eye” by treating patients with dry eye disease. 

When one considers the traditional options for dry eye care, drops are the first treatments that come to mind.  Most commonly, artificial tears are recommended. In fact, 72% of people with dry eye complaints leave their doctor’s offices with artificial tears as their one and only source of relief. Unfortunately, many of those patients want more than an over-the-counter remedy that many have already tried before. Some people receive more ophthalmic options like Restasis (Allergan Plc, Irvine, CA) or Xiidra (Shire Plc, Lexington, MA). Both drugs can help with dry eye complaints even though they work differently on the eye to provide benefit. Other patients may have punctal plugs inserted to increase the tear reservoir in the eye. All of these treatments offer different benefits for the dry eye patient, but each works within a classic eye care framework.

Innovative treatments for the eye

New and innovative “outside the eye” treatments are reaching the market more than ever before. TrueTear (Allergan Plc, Irvine CA) was launched in 2017 and brings neurostimulation to the eye. Previously only used in retina for eye care, neurostimulation offers a unique trigger mechanism for the eye to create its own tear components. The at-home device (approximately the size of a nasal spray bottle) fits in a handbag or computer bag easily. The device has a disposable hydrogel tip on the end that is replaced every twenty-four hours. The tip is inserted into the nose and a gentle pulse emitted from the device triggers tearing. The tears created lubricate the eye but don’t have the messy spillage of artificial tear application, and are made of the same components of a natural tear. TrueTear is expected to be in wide release later this fall. 

Additionally, more ODs are “thinking outside the eye” by using Intense Pulse Light (IPL) for their dry eye patients.  IPL, originally used as a skin treatment or “photofacial,” has been shown to alleviate dry eye signs and symptoms. The treatment takes place in a series and takes only a few minutes to perform. Dry eye patients enjoy the relief it offers for their burning, red and irritated eyes as well as how their skin looks after the treatment is complete. 

While “eye care” is always about caring for the patient’s eyes. There are more ways to approach it than conventional drops. “Thinking outside the box” may be just what the doctor ordered.