–A Guest Column by Katherine M Mastrota, M.S., O.D., F.A.A.O.–
The eyelid is remarkable but often neglected part of our eye health. Most of us perform the daily routine of personal cleaning and grooming (hair/body/face) but pay little attention to the eyelids and eyelashes. The eyelid houses important glands that produce the oil necessary for a healthy tear film. It is also responsible for effectively spreading the tears over the eye’s surface and tear exchange. A healthy, smooth tear film is critical for clear, comfortable vision and successful contact lens wear.
Since 1950, eye doctors have been prescribing cleaning care of the eyelids. The benefits of eyelid hygiene include reducing debris, allergens and bacteria on the eyelids to decrease the risk for conjunctivitis (pink eye) and styes (infected or inflamed oil glands) and is thought to lower the chance of infection after any eye surgery. It is also important for patients with dry eye disease.
Cosmetics are another challenge to the skin around and surface of the eye. Today’s range of makeup products last longer. Activators, sealants and specialty brushes intensify, enhance and prolong applied products.
Mascara, for example, can contain different oils and waxes: sesame oil, mineral oil, linseed oil, castor oil, eucalyptus oil, lanolin, or oil of turpentine can be found most frequently among the many formulas. Waxes usually found in mascara are paraffin wax, carnauba wax, and beeswax.
It’s not hard to believe that product applied to the lashes and lid margin (tightlining) finds its way into the tear film. This can cause discomfort and coating on contact lenses, blurring vision and reducing lens wearing time. Considering the potential harm (including eyelash loss) attention to gently removing eye cosmetics is paramount.
When it comes to eyelid hygiene, most people prefer commercially prepared products over-the-counter or Rx products as opposed to homemade solutions or therapies. These medical-quality products are formulated without sensitizing dyes, perfumes or preservatives and are available in a variety of pre-moistened towelettes or pads, solutions, gels and foams. Discuss lid hygiene with your eye care provider to help determine which is right for you.
Keep in mind the “dental analogy” or “skin analogy” when thinking about your eyelids. Appropriate attention and daily cleansing is a must for healthy teeth and gums as it is for supple, blemish-free skin. It is not hard to understand that cultivating a healthy eyelid environment is an important concept for eye care.
About Dr. Mastrota
Dr. Mastrota is Dr. Mastrota is Center Director of Omni Eye Surgery in New York City. She is a Contributing Editor to Contact Lens Spectrum, Optometry Times and the online newsletter, Optometric Physician. She sits on the Editorial Board of Advanced Ocular Care and has authored numerous articles for these as well as other professional publications. She an advisor to a number of ophthalmic pharmaceutical companies.
Dr. Mastrota is Program Chair Elect of the Anterior Segment Section of the American Academy of Optometry. She has lectured nationally on ocular surface disease and other topics. She is a Contributing Editor to Contact Lens Spectrum, Optometry Times and the online newsletter, Optometric Physician.