Dry eye is a medical condition of the ocular surface system that affects tear production and/or drainage. It is one of the most common disorders seen in any eye doctor’s office. Patients with dry eye may have the following complaints: excessive tearing, burning, redness, irritation or blurry vision. These symptoms may cause difficulty viewing a computer, watching television, or seeing clearly when driving.
Many people have heard of IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) treatment for evening out facial skin tone and reducing facial wrinkles, but few know that IPL can now help reduce dry eye symptoms. This breakthrough in technology has been used to unplug the oil glands that line the upper and lower lid margins. IPL is not a laser, but a light-based therapy. The light serves as a healing warm compress to liquefy any secretions that may be blocking the oil-secreting gland of the eye (called the Meibomian glands). Once the glands are unplugged, the oily layer of the tear film is restored, thus tears remain in the eye and bring soothing relief. The IPL can also reduce inflammation caused by dry eyes.
IPL may be the answer for many patients who are still uncomfortable despite their use of multiple modalities such as artificial tears, Restasis™, flax-seed oil, Omega-3 supplements, permanent punctal plugs, warm compresses, and oral Doxycycline.
IPL has long been used in dermatology to treat vascular facial lesions, rosacea spots, and pigmented areas. Filters are used to apply specific wavelengths of light to target abnormal blood vessels in the eyelids and skin that are often responsible for causing eyelid inflammation and meibomian gland dysfunction.
About the Procedure:
The light therapy is not applied directly to the eye and eye protection is used during the procedure. Your physician will determine the light settings based on your skin type.
A protective eye shield is gently placed to cover your eyes. A cool gel is placed onto the skin surface and then the IPL treatment is performed. Most patients experience a tingling and warming sensation as the light is applied. Next, the meibomian glands are expressed to relieve the gland obstructions.
The procedure is relatively comfortable and quick — taking only about 10 to 15 minutes in total. Most patients require four treatments initially (one per month) and then maintenance treatments are required on an annual basis. This may vary depending upon each individual patient’s disease severity.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are IPL treatments like?
First, the area around the eye is cleansed and external shields are applied to the eye area. Then a thin layer of cooling gel is placed on the treatment area. IPL treatments are applied through a handpiece which administers pulses of light.
How many treatments will I need?
Treatments are repeated once a month for 4 months, though significant improvements are noted after 1 to 2 treatments.
Who are good candidates for IPL?
The best candidates are patients with dry eye, or patients suffering from meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).
What results can I expect?
After the initial treatment, most patients report some improvement in their symptoms with the maximum improvement following the 4th treatment. Depending on the severity of the dysfunction, some patients may need fewer treatments while others require more. All patients will need maintenance therapy once to twice per year.