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Thermal Pulsation for Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

December 31, 2019

Health Problem: Dry eye disease (DED) is a type of ocular surface disorder. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) contributes to DED in approximately 60% of patients. The meibomian glands are present in the upper and lower eyelids and they secrete lipids that are an important component of tears. The oily lipids float to the surface of tear solution that covers the eyes, forming a thin barrier between air and water that slows evaporation to keep the eye surface from drying out. An estimated 3.2 million women and 1.7 million men aged 50 years and older are affected by DED in the United States.

Technology Description: Thermal pulsation therapy is performed by a physician during an in-office procedure to provide controlled heat and intermittent pressure to the eyelids with the goal of facilitating release of lipid from the meibomian glands. This lipid forms an oily layer that prevents tears from evaporating too quickly from the surface of the eye, which can lead to DED.

Controversy: Most of the available studies of thermal pulsation therapy are small in size and may not adequately evaluate its efficacy and durability relative to established treatments for DED and MGD.

Key Questions:

  • Does thermal pulsation therapy provide prolonged relief of symptoms associated with DED and MGD?
  • How does the efficacy of thermal pulsation therapy compare with standard treatment and alternative treatments for DED and MGD?
  • Is thermal pulsation therapy safe for the treatment of DED and MGD?
  • Have definitive patient selection criteria been established for thermal pulsation therapy for treatment of DED and MGD?