Dry eye can be a literal pain, with symptoms ranging from stinging, burning, watering and itching. But it can also be a serious disease. If left untreated — or if it becomes severe — complications may arise that cause real damage like impaired vision, or in rare cases, vision loss.
Dry eye disease (DED) can result from a range of daily activities, like allergies or contact lens use. In addition, increased screen time from smartphones and computers can affect the eyes and worsen dry eye symptoms.
“We are spending an average of 13 hours a day on our devices — and a lot of people are doing more than that. You work eight hours a day, spend time on social media, play games and watch Netflix — all on the laptop or iPad,” said Jason Teh, an optometrist at In2Eyes Optometry in Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Teh has 19 years of experience and a Bachelor’s of Optometry.
“We spend so much time on devices that our eyes are going to pay a price — and that price is coming if we don’t make an impact on screening for dry eye,” he said.
“There are many studies that show up to 70% of Asians have meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). That is a high number. In the United States, it’s about 20%,” said Dr. Teh. MGD is a blockage or some other abnormality of the meibomian glands resulting in not enough oil secretion into tears. This then causes the tear film to evaporate too quickly and results in MGD’s association with DED.
In his practice, Dr. Teh has a high number of Asian patients. Following screening, he’s found that nearly 40% of his patients had the condition. “Undiagnosed MGD is going to be a massive problem worldwide in the next five to 10 years,” he said.
Fight DED with Diagnosis
Dr. Teh says the latest technology in dry eye diagnosis and assessment is the OCULUS Keratograph 5M (K5M; OCULUS Optikgeräte GmbH; Wetzlar, Germany). He has been using the device for the last five years. The system integrates a high-resolution camera, keratometer and corneal topographer — combining corneal topography and dry eye analysis in one machine.
“I use the KM5 because it allows me to do everything: I can measure non-invasive Keratograph tear film break-up time (NIKBUT), look at tear volume, assess the meibomian glands to see how well the oil glands are structured in the upper or the lower lid,” said Dr. Teh.
“We can also do stainings — by using fluorescein dye and changing the settings to blue light, we are able to capture any signs of damaged cells on the corneal surface. So, many of these are the key diagnostics that we need.”
The Keratograph 5M allows optometrists to assess and record the extent of patients’ DED — using non-invasive methods to take high-resolution images, with a wide variety of tests and software analyses, all of which provide patients with more insight into their condition.
Dr. Teh says it’s the dry eye assessment that really makes the Keratograph 5M stand out among other similar devices. Part of this is customization: The dry eye assessment can be modified to a particular preference, or a set protocol from a dry eye society like TFOS (Tear Film & Ocular Surface Society) can be followed.
“Once you select your protocol, it will take you through each test you need to do,” he shared. Once the patient’s data is captured with the K5M, optometrists can plan the best treatment. These results are also summarized in a patient-friendly printout to assist with documentation and patient education, which is a further benefit, said Dr. Teh. “You can put all your findings together in a report and show the patient exactly what each stands for . . . you can also add in your diagnostic suggestions and management plan.”
More than Dry Eye
The Keratograph 5M is not just for diagnosing dry eye either.
“The K5M is a powerful tool for contact lens fitting . . . you can fully customize the lens just based on these measurements,” said Dr. Teh. These measurements include corneal topography, pupil size, contact lens fitting and NIKBUT.
“The corneal topographer maps the curvature of the eyeball and gives us the measurements of how steep and flat it is at different meridians. With that, the visible iris diameter can be measured and that then helps determine the size of the contact lens needed.
“The pupil size can also be measured and that will help ensure the lens is centered,” continued Dr. Teh. “If the pupil is big or small, it will be clear or blurry depending on the optic zone of the contact lens. For example, if the optic zone is small, but the pupil size is big, then you’re going to get glare and halos — but if you know the pupil matches the optic zone of the contact lens, then the vision outcome is going to be good.”
The Keratograph 5M can also help with fitting during follow-up — especially with hard lenses which are suitable for dye. “You can put the dye into the eye with the contact lens on and you use imaging to check the fit. You can do a video recording of that fit as well,” Dr. Teh explained. “This is one feature that really makes it stand out — how good the blue light imaging is.
“The other cool thing I like to do, especially with soft lenses, is to have a look at the length of time it takes for that lens to dry out, to see whether or not the patient is going to have any problems with wearing contact lense for a long period of time,” he said. This is done using NIKBUT while the patient is wearing the contact lenses. “You get the patient to blink twice and it will measure how long it takes for the tear film to evaporate from the surface of that contact lens.
“You can even show off how well eye drops work by dropping lubricant in their eye and performing the same test before and after application. So, it guides you in terms of what type of tears are better for that particular surface.”
Further, Dr. Teh explained that there aren’t many devices that measure pupil function (constriction and recovery) when submitted to light stimulus. “You can actually measure recovery time for pupil function, so that stands out.”
According to Dr. Teh, the patient experience is generally very powerful and very good because the Keratograph 5M has so many features and functions. He says these make the Keratograph 5M “all encompassing” and provide the patients with a lot of “wow factor” — especially when discussing the results.
“The K5M is the ‘jack of all trades’ and it’s pretty much the master of all. You have so many different things that you can do with the one device and that’s what makes it so so valuable,” he said.
Dr. Teh says of all the equipment he’s acquired at his practice over the last 10 years, the Keratograph 5M is the most valuable. “The K5M gives me the best value for money. We use it more than pretty much any other instrument and it gives us so much information and so much value for the price we pay,” he concluded.