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How Effective Is IPL Dry Eye Treatment?

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Dry eyes can cause discomfort, blurred vision, and a gritty sensation in your eyes. If you have these symptoms, a comprehensive eye exam with advanced imaging technology can help your eye doctor assess your eye health and tear quality. 

One treatment approach for dry eye is IPL, or intense pulsed light therapy. IPL helps unclog blocked oil glands in the eye to help produce a balanced tear film in the eyes and provide relief from dry eyes. This treatment can provide longer-lasting relief than other dry eye treatments, such as artificial tears, warm compresses, and eyelid scrubs.

All About Dry Eye

Dry eye is an ocular surface disease that occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or the tears produced are poor quality. Tears coat your eyes to provide moisture, protect, and nourish them. 

Without a balanced tear film comprising water, oil, and mucous, tears can’t provide enough lubrication and evaporate more quickly, leading to dry eyes. Symptoms of dry eye can include:

  • Redness
  • Stinging
  • Burning
  • Grittiness
  • Scratchiness
  • Light sensitivity
  • A feeling of something foreign in the eye
  • Excessive tearing
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Difficulty driving at night

Because of the many reasons behind your dry eyes, eye exams are crucial to determine the underlying cause. Causes can include:

Your risk of developing dry eye can include the following factors:

  • Age 50 and older: Tear production decreases with age 
  • Biological sex: Females are more affected by the lack of tears from hormonal changes 
  • Diet: Low vitamin A intake 
  • Contact lenses: Prolonged use of contact lenses can increase your risk of dry eyes 
  • Surgery: A history of refractive surgery

Treatment for Dry Eye

A treatment plan for dry eye typically depends on the cause and presenting symptoms. Meibomian gland dysfunction impacts the quantity and quality of meibum (oil), affecting ocular surface health and leading to several things, including:

  • Increased tear evaporation
  • Inflammation
  • Ocular surface damage
  • Discomfort
  • Visual disruption

For MGD and clogged glands, IPL therapy can be an effective dry eye treatment.

IPL Therapy

IPL therapy is a non-invasive procedure originally developed for cosmetic dermatology, with the same principle applied to dry eye treatment. For dry eyes caused by meibomian gland dysfunction, the oil-producing meibomian glands in the eyelids do not function properly. 

IPL therapy helps break up oil and debris buildup blocking the glands. IPL also targets bacterial overgrowth and decreases inflammation. IPL near the eyelid can close the abnormal blood vessels that secrete inflammatory mediators, which is the root cause of MGD. 

This process promotes better functioning of the meibomian glands, improving tear film stability and alleviating dry eye symptoms.

An in-office IPL procedure involves using a handheld device emitting pulses of light energy. IPL therapy uses a bright light that can harm the eyes. For this reason, your eye doctor will place protective eyewear over your eyes and rub a cooling gel over the treatment area. 

When placed over the eyelids, the light from the device melts the oil buildup blocking the glands. Once the glands have opened, they may express oil to stimulate natural production. 

How Effective Is IPL for Dry Eyes?

Even though IPL treatments work for short durations, they can provide longer-lasting relief, unlike other dry eye treatments, such as artificial tears, warm compresses, and eyelid scrubs. Some individuals may experience immediate improvement after the first or second session. Others may require 4 treatments once a month to achieve the desired results or relief. 

By targeting the underlying cause of dry eyes, the improved function of the meibomian glands can lead to a reduction in symptoms and a prolonged improvement in tear film quality.

Depending on the severity of your dry eyes, your eye doctor may recommend additional treatments or a combination of other treatment methods. 

Other dry eye treatments your eye doctor may use jointly with IPL therapy include Blephex, Lipiflow, low light level therapy (LLLT), and Zocular Eyelid System Treatment (ZEST). These can act as supportive therapy to enhance the overall effectiveness of the treatment plan, providing a multifaceted approach to managing dry eye symptoms.

A female optometrist looking into a medical device to perform an eye exam on a senior man

Longer-Lasting & Effective Relief from Dry Eye

IPL therapy has emerged as a potential option for individuals seeking relief from dry eyes, particularly those with meibomian gland dysfunction. With its potentially long-lasting effects, IPL treatment offers a unique approach to addressing the underlying causes of dry eye to eliminate symptoms.  Every individual’s treatment experience may vary, so personalized care and evaluation are crucial in finding the most effective dry eye treatment for you. Book an appointment with Eyes on 34th to determine whether IPL therapy is the best treatment for your needs.

Written by Dr. Charanjit Sihota

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