IPL Treatment for Dry Eyes

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy is a quick and painless procedure that can provide immediate improvement in dry eye symptoms. It is used to treat meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), the underlying cause of dry eye in the majority of sufferers.

Why IPL Treatment?

You may have tried many of the common treatments for dry eye including artificial tears, ointments hot compresses and eyelid hygiene wipes. Such treatments can be effective in temporarily relieving the symptoms of dry eye. However, they do not treat the underlying cause of dry eyes and often the symptoms return again and again. IPL treatment actively treats Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), the root cause of evaporative dry eye. By treating MGD, IPL not only relieves the symptoms associated with dry eye, but can also slow the progression of chronic dry eye as a result of damage to the meibomian glands.

How does IPL work?

Your tears contain three layers - a sticky mucous layer, a watery aqueous layer and an oily layer. Each layer has its own unique function. The oily layer, produced by your meibomian glands, prevents the tears from evaporating too quickly between blinks. Quick evaporation can lead to symptoms of dry eye.

You have approximately 25-40 meibomian glands in the upper eyelid and around 25 in the lower eyelid. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) occurs when the meibomian glands become inflamed or blocked. IPL treatment opens the meibomian glands and liquifies the thickened oil within the glands. Immediately after IPL treatment our optometrists will express the meibomian glands to remove any blockages.

Patients with ocular and/or facial rosacea have telangiectasia (abnormally dilated blood vessels) along the eyelid margins. These abnormal blood vessels deliver increased inflammation to the eyelid and meibomian glands and contribute to MGD. IPL helps reduce the abnormal vessels via photocoagulation (closing of abnormal vessels) and also photo-rejuvenation of the skin cells. This not only reduces the inflammation but can also improve the cosmetic appearance of the eyelid.

What is involved in IPL?

The area around the eye is cleaned and small protective ceramic eye shields are place on like swimming goggles. A thin layer of a cooling gel is applied to the treatment area around the eyelid and cheek. Our optometrists use an IPL hand piece to target and administer short burst of intense light around the eyelids. Normally 5 treatments zones are covered in each eye. You will feel a slight heating sensation with each burst of light. The procedure is completely pain free.

How many treatments will I need?

Studies have shown an increase in tear production after each treatment, with maximum results typically occurring after the fourth treatment. Therefore we normally advise 4 initial treatments:

Treatment 1: Day 1

Treatment 2: Day 14

Treatment 3: Day 45

Treatment 4: Day 72

Further maintenance treatments will be discussed on an individual basis depending on the severity of dry eye disease and meibomian gland dysfunction. Repeat treatments may range anywhere from monthly to once per year.

Who should consider IPL?

The best candidates for IPL dry eye treatment are patients with moderate to severe dry eye, meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) or blepharitis. Or patients who have struggled to maintain their symptoms using traditional treatments such as artificial tears and hot compresses.

Who shouldn’t consider IPL?

  • Fitzgerald skin type four or below (Dark African skin type - darker skin has the risk of depigmentation)
  • During pregnancy
  • History of cancer in the area of treatment
  • History of metal plates, rods or screws in the treatment area
  • History of keloid scarring
  • Use of isotretinoin (acne medication) within the last year
  • Use of any photosensitive medicals or herbal supplements (e.g. oral antibiotics)
  • Use of tanning bed 4 weeks before treatment
  • Avoid Botox and dermal fillers for 1 week prior to treatment and 2 weeks after treatment
  • Active cold sores or herpes simplex or herpes zoster virus

What should I expect after the treatment?

Most patients notice an improvement in their symptoms within a few hours of their first treatment. However, depending on the severity of your condition it may take a full cycle of 4 treatments over a 2 month period to fully benefit from IPL.

What should I do after my IPL treatment?

It is normal to experience some mild redness, swelling or crusting for up to 5 days after treatment. A soothing aloe vera gel can be useful. Avoid the use of harsh cleansers or facial scrubs for two weeks after your treatment. In the summer months or if you are travelling during treatment, it is particularly important to apply sunscreen SPF 30-50 frequently to the treated area for 2 weeks after your treatment to avoid photosensitivity. Continue using a warm compress such as an EyeBag or Optase max from 5-10 minutes twice per day.

How do I get started?

Before we can commence with IPL treatment you will require a full examination within our Dry Eye and Blepharitis clinic to ascertain whether IPL is the best treatment for you. Information about our dry eye clinic can be found here