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Health: New Treatment For Dry Eyes

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Irritated, dry eyes.  It's become an epidemic, now striking younger people in growing numbers.  Technology gets much of the blame.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on the newest, high-tech treatment.

For medical student Paulina Tran, computers and smart phones are a part of everyday life.

"I just started getting this, this dryness in my eyes, almost as if there's like sandpaper.  The burning sensation just became too much to handle," said Paulina.

"In the past, 90 percent of our patients were over the age of 50 with dry eye symptoms. Now 50 percent of our patients are 20 to 30 year olds," said Dr. Gregg Feinerman, an Ophthalmologist.

Experts say staring at computers and smart phones for countless hours has caused a spike in the number of people with dry eyes.  Other causes of dry eye include air conditioning, some medications, vision correction surgery, and age.

"I was constantly having red irritated itchy eyes," said Alice D'Agostino, who uses eye drops all the time.  But nothing really worked for her dry eyes, until she tried laser treatments.

"I've never seen anything treat dry eye like this does," said Dr. Sanjay Kamat, with Bucks Eye Specialists.  He says he was the first in our area to use IPL, intense pulsed light to treat dry eye.

"It's a standard IPL machine that can do all sorts of different things, but it is made with low energy settings that are safe for use around the eye," said Dr. Kamat.

The eyeball is protected with a shield during the treatments.  The laser is focused under the eye toward tissue that makes tears.  Invisible inflammation reduces the formation of tears.  Heat from the laser zaps the inflammation that causes dry eye.

"The machine will increase the capacity of the eye to produce normal or healthy tears," said Dr. Kamat.

"It feels like you're in a thunderstorm of lightning.  It's just intense heat," said Alice.  She says it's not painful, and it works right away.  Her eyes feel better, and her vision has improved.

Lauren Tierney has also had the IPL treatments.  It's worked so well she's looking forward to finally being able to wear contacts.

"This treatment has made all the difference it really did.  After a couple of treatments, I didn't feel like I had a piece of sand in my eyes anymore," said Lauren.

Laser treatments are only recommended for severe cases of dry eye.

The problem can usually be eased by blinking more,  using eye drops, plus taking regular screen breaks.

"I'm trying my best to take more breaks," said Paulina.

While occasional dry eye is probably not serious, more severe cases can cause permanent damage.

The laser treatments, that aren't covered by insurance, can cost about $1,800 a year, depending on how many are needed.  Some people need occasional follow-ups.

For more information, visit the link below:

Bucks Eye Specialists-

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