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Natural vs Artificial Tears – Solving the Dry Eye Debate

The global trend for natural products is not new. For decades consumers have sought more natural solutions for everything from clothing to food, health and beauty products, and even solar energy! Scientists often use natural products as inspiration for drug discoveries, adding synthetic modifications to improve the effects. In fact, approximately half of FDA-approved drugs were inspired by natural substances.

So, it makes sense that both patients and doctors would take a close look at how treatments for dry eyes work. Most people still think that dry eyes are caused by a lack of tear production, but science has proven that this was incorrect. And since dry eye disease wasn’t well understood over the past twenty years, treatments were limited and based on the old school of thought – – that the problem was lack of tear production or “aqueous deficiency.” The most common advice was to simply use “artificial tears” (aka lubricating eye drops) in place of natural tears that were supposedly not being produced in adequate supply A multi-billion dollar industry of “artificial tears” or lubricating drops was created to solve what we now know was the wrong problem. Treating dry eyes used to be just about supplementing supposedly inadequate tears with over-the-counter lubricating drops or “artificial tears.”

Today, successful treatments address the more complex issues for the approximately 85% of dry eye patients with Meibomian Gland Disease (MGD.) Cleaning out the Meibomian glands begins the process, but you have to keep them clean, or they just clog up again. Meibomian Gland Dysfunction usually progresses slowly over decades and causes an aqueous tear deficiency, too.

While “artificial tears” can provide temporary relief, they can also become a crutch. They don’t help your eyes produce natural tears, but some are made with lipids in an attempt to provide replacement oils to help temporarily slow evaporation. Unfortunately, artificial tears are not designed to address the underlying problem that causes of blocked Meibomian glands. 

Also, preservatives in many artificial tear formulas remain an issue. If you use preserved tears over 3 or 4 times daily, the preservatives can cause some ocular surface disease. Then, the drops don’t help as much as you want, and they could make your dry eye problem worse. Artificial tears are a billion-dollar industry, so it’s unrealistic to expect sufferers to avoid artificial tears with preservatives since they are such a big part of the market. 

Most people think their eyes feel dry and gritty because they are not producing enough tears. But advances in science proved that the problem is not a lack of adequate tear production for a vast majority of these people. In fact, over 85% of these Dry Eye cases are related to a condition called Meibomian Gland Disease (MGD). The eyelid glands that produce oils that coat and retain our tear film become clogged.

-Dr. Michel Guillon

“Artificial Tears” Are Not the Solution

Patients are tired of continually using “artificial tears,” microwaved masks and other products to help with their dry eye symptoms. There is no question that most of these treatments are not getting to the root of the problem. And treating dry eye symptoms is time-consuming and expensive.

A few therapies show some promise in actually helping patients retain their own natural tears. Johnson & Johnson’s Lipiflow in-office treatment uses precise heat and pulsation on the eyelids to melt the solidified oil in the Meibomian glands. More recently, a treatment using Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) has been shown to help patients with dry eyes related to MGD. Both of these in-office treatments enable patients to rely on their “natural tears” again. BUT… and it is a big but… doctors report that the expense and inconvenience involved can place these treatments well out of reach for most MGD sufferers.

How to Rejuvenate Natural Tears in MGD Patients

The science behind Lipiflow and IPL demonstrates that the natural tear film can be restored for MGD patients using precise heat therapy directly on the eyelids. The question is how to make effective treatment accessible by reducing the cost and increasing the convenience.

Over-the-counter artificial tears are reasonably priced and reasonably convenient. But dry eye sufferers complain of the need to use artificial tears multiple times a day, which intrudes on their lifestyle daily. By adding artificial tears, dry eyes feel better for only a few moments. And there is the added concern about preservatives in the drops creating more problems.

That was all that was available for your grandfather’s dry eye problem. Still, surely the artificial tears manufacturers know about MGD by now! They must understand that most of their artificial tears products are based on decades-old (disproven) science. So, why do they keep selling these artificial tears that just don’t work? You know the answer to that. Profits. They don’t (yet?) have an alternative they can offer inexpensively and over the counter.

Consider the disruption in the Big Optical industry! Imagine MGD patients purchasing a therapy over the counter that begins helping restore their eyes’ ability to retain more natural tears in just minutes a day.

EverTears® technology goes beyond providing symptom relief and focuses on addressing the real MGD problem… unblocking the glands and keeping them unblocked.

-Dr. Michel Guillon

Effective Over The Counter Treatment for Dry Eyes

EverTears® is that therapy. EverTears® is the first FDA-cleared over-the-counter treatment combining self-heating eye compress technology and a sterile medicated cleaner to unclog eyelid glands. It is the first self-heating eye compress that also offers effective eyelid hygiene. Developed by Dr. Michel Guillon, director of Ocular Technology Group in London, EverTears® uses a patented precise heating process to not only relieve dry eye symptoms but also help people better retain their own tears naturally instead of relying on “artificial tears.”

While there are several aspects about EverTears® that I think are quite unique, the real #1 game-changer in helping to improve the lives of patients with Dry Eyes and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is convenience.

Of course, there are other benefits we doctors like: it’s sterile, it delivers the precise temperature level and duration needed, it comes pre-moistened with a preservative-free cleaning solution…but at the end of the day, the reason EverTears® will make a difference for our patients is the convenience factor.

– Marguerite McDonald, MD, FACS

Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, New. York, Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, OCLI Vision, Oceanside, New York

MGD patients can now purchase EverTears® over the counter, with no prescription, for around a dollar a day. Using EverTears® takes about 5 minutes a day to relieve dry eye symptoms and support the eyes’ ability to retain natural tears. So for people who believe “natural” trumps “artificial,” it may be time to make the switch from dependency on using artificial tears several times every day.

Not everyone cares if their sheets are 100% cotton or if their strawberries are organic. But in the natural vs artificial tears arena, only Big Optical’s profits fight on the side of artificial tears.

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