At the end of the day, 29-year-old Maria Aligizakis feels like her eyes are tired and dry.

“If I’m sitting at a computer, and I’m trying to focus, trying to write a report or an email, I will have to constantly blink my eyes, put some drops in – just to make sure that I can finish my day,” Aligizakis said.

Aligizakis suffers from dry eye disease, a condition that affects more than 100 million people around the world. The problem is caused by a deficiency in the oil layer of the eye’s natural tear film. Patients don’t usually have enough tears to lubricate and nourish the eye.

Dr. Eric Donnenfeld, of Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island, in N.Y., said this issue is the number-one reason patients visit their eye doctor.

“Patients very commonly don’t know that they have dry eye,” Donnenfeld said. “They think it’s something else. Some people complain about decreased vision, and think they have cataracts.”

Symptoms of dry-eye disease include:


*Itching or burning

*Feeling of something in the eyes

*Excess watering

*Blurred vision

“I cannot go through a day without artificial tears,” Aligizakis said. “If I can avoid putting drops in every hour or two, that would be heaven. That would be great.”

Patients often treat these symptoms with warm compresses and over-the-counter eye drops – but a new in-office treatment called Lipiflow (www.lipiflow.com) is unblocking the oil glands and helping patients get some relief.

“The Lipiflow system works from the inside out,” Donnenfeld said. “It actually massages and heats the inside of the lid, unclogs the oils, massages them out and does things that we can’t do mechanically.”

Each cycle is about six minutes long – and results can last up to two years.

“When I look at this, I think this is as close to a cure as we’ve come,” Donnenfeld said. “The Lipiflow systems makes patients feel better, but most importantly . . . it holistically treats the cause of the disease and resolves the problem.”

Aligizakis said she had the procedure, and she sees a big difference.

The procedure costs about $1,500. It is not yet covered by health insurance.

For more information, go to OCLI.net.