Blephex: A Medical Breakthrough in Eye-Care
By Jana Ritter
Although blepharitis is a common eye condition affecting almost 35% of the population, you probably haven't even heard of it before. Why? Well, like the rest of us, sometimes doctors would rather just overlook a problem that they don't have the solution to. Therefore, blepharitis is just diagnosed as inflamed, irritated, dry and itchy eyelid or just completely overlooked. Until now, there has never any way to effectively treat this condition. That is until Dr. James Rynerson came along. A practicing ophthalmologist and trailblazing type of physician that has not only developed the first procedure to effectively treat blepharitis, but he also designed the very medical device that is now allowing doctors to perform the procedure in countries all over the world.
When we found out how this important medical breakthrough also stands to save society billions of dollars in healthcare costs, we were anxious to find out more from Dr. Rynerson himself.
What made you decide to go into medicine and specifically ophthalmology?
My father was a family physician and I was always very aware of how rewarding it was for him being able to help people. He also inspired me to become an eye doctor when he got a foreign body in his eye. I managed to get it out for him using a needle, gauze and rubbing alcohol and he told me I had the hands of a surgeon. This was a very gratifying experience for a 13 year old boy.
What is blepharitis and why did you make it the focus of your practice?
When I was in residency we were trained in all aspects of eye care, but I didn't really come across blepharitis until I started practicing. So many patients would come in complaining of the same thing; crustiness, grittiness, itchiness and dry eyes. Many had been to other doctors who weren't able to tell them what it was, but I was able to diagnose it right away and soon realized that treating proved to be a lot more difficult.
Basically all I could do was give patients different types of home care protocols, but nothing really worked and I began understand to why other doctors didn't want to deal with it at all - I was ready to give up too. Then I said to myself, 'We are doctors, we can't just ignore a disease! There has to be a better way to do things and I need to figure out how.'
Not only did you develop the first and only treatment for blepharitis, you also invented BlephEx™, the device that other doctors are now using to perform the procedure as well. How did that all come about?
Blepharitis is built-up bacteria and biofilm on the eyelids and since the eyelids are the only body part that we don't wash, you can understand why it's so common. Basically, I just had to figure out the best way to remove the bacteria and exo-toxins from the sensitive, delicate tissue of the eyelid margins. I took a surgical sponge and started out in my home garage constructing a hand device that could spin at 2000 rpm to completely remove the bacteria. It worked and things blossomed pretty quickly from there. BlephEx is now being used by doctors in the United States, Canada, Europe and quickly proving successful results - blepharitis patients are pretty much symptom free from the very first treatment.
What does the procedure entail exactly? Is it painful?
Not at all. It only takes about 7-8 minutes and the only thing you might feel is a tickling sensation. Blephex is simply a medical grade disposable, micro-sponge that spins along the edge of your eyelids and lashes, kind of like an exfoliation treatment of the eyelids. People feel instant relief after the procedure and they're symptom free as long as they keep up with regular treatments.
The same way that gingivitis and tooth loss can be prevented with regular teeth cleaning and flossing, blepharitis and tear gland damage can be controlled with BlephEx treatments every 4 to 6 months.
How much does it cost?
That really depends on each doctor, but usually between $160 - $250.
Is it true that veterinarians are even starting to use Blephex to treat blepharitis in dogs?
Yes, blepharitis is even more common with dogs because they're exposed to a lot more bacteria and a lot less capable of cleaning their own eyes. I realized this with my own Chihuahua who had really bad blepharitis, so I showed my veterinarian how to use the Blephex and it immediately made a remarkable difference. Now a lot of veterinarians are offering the procedure to dogs and usually perform it during teeth cleaning for only an additional $70 or $80.
Why is it important to spread awareness about blepharitis and the need for healthcare professionals to start providing treatment for it?
First, people need to know what blepharitis is because the earlier they can detect the symptoms and get it treated, the less of a problem it becomes. This is especially true for people who wear contact lenses, not only do contact lenses make you more prone to eye bacteria, but failing to treat it can eventually mean your eyes won't be able to tolerate contact lenses at all.
The next crucial fact is that 70% of people over age 65 have blepharitis and up to 35% of the entire population ranging from children to seniors have some form of it as well. If doctors are able to treat it and eliminate the cause, it not only saves each patient hundreds of dollars in the prescription drops, artificial tears, home scrubs, humidity goggles and all the endless remedies that don't really work, but it could ultimately save us the 55 billion dollars its costing our society over all.
I think the real question is that if there is an easy, inexpensive way to treat a disease - why wouldn't we?
If you would like to find out more about Dr. James Rynerson and BlephEx™, go directly to: www.blephex.com
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