Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatment for Ocular Surface Disease (Dry Eye) Ocular surface disease (dry eye) has many potential causes, all of which lead to a feeling of dryness, irritation, stinging, or tiredness in the eye, sometimes accompanied by intermittent blurry vision. One of the most common causes of ocular surface disease is meibomian gland dysfunction. The meibomian glands are located in the eyelids, and they produce lipids (oily substances) that are an essential part of the tear film that protects and lubricates the eye. When the glands are not functioning properly, they may become blocked or inflamed. This reduces the quality and quantity of the tear film’s lipid layer, and tears evaporate too quickly, leaving the surface of the eye exposed to discomfort and damage. Ocular surface disease caused by meibomian gland dysfunction is also known as evaporative dry eye.
To relieve the evaporative dry eye symptoms, IPL therapy can address the underlying dysfunction of the meibomian glands with intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy. In IPL therapy, light is applied to the area around the eyelids. The light has several effects that benefit the meibomian glands. One effect is a reduction in bacteria. Another effect, a decrease in inflammation, occurs when blood vessels absorb the light. The heat generated by the light also melts and thins the low-quality secretions that clog the glands.
During IPL treatment, protective pads are placed over the eyes, and a cooling gel is applied to the eyelid area. Usually, only the lower eyelids are treated. Light is applied with a handheld device across your face near the eyelids, from one ear all the way to the other. You won’t feel pain from the pulses of light, but you will feel warmth in the treatment area. After IPL, a cotton swab gently squeezes out the unhealthy secretions to unclog the glands. The entire process takes approximately 15 minutes.
You may experience some mild discomfort in the treatment area for a few days after the treatment. When you wake up the day after the procedure, your upper and lower eyelids might be stuck together. This is caused by increased gland secretions and is not a problem. You can clean and open your eyelids using a warm, wet cloth or a cleansing towelette if your doctor has recommended one.
Some people experience blurry vision due to increased gland secretions for a few days after the treatment, after which clear vision and comfort return. You will most likely receive three or four monthly IPL treatments initially and then a maintenance treatment every six months to a year. If you have darker skin, you may not be a candidate for IPL treatment, and your doctor can recommend other options.
IPL offers a more permanent solution to your ocular surface disease than some other treatments because it targets an underlying cause instead of only the symptoms. IPL may be used alone or along with one or more other treatments for meibomian gland dysfunction, such as prescription antibiotics or steroid eye drops, LipiFlow thermal pulsation, warm eyelid compresses, eyelid cleansers, and nutritional supplements.
If symptoms of ocular surface disease are making you uncomfortable and interfering with your daily life, call us. Our doctors across Arizona have the expertise and tools to give you the relief you need.