Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatment for Dry Eye

intense pulse light

Ever heard of IPL Dry Eye? In this article, learn how Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) can help relieve Dry Eyes.

Are you tired of the constant discomfort and trouble because of your dry eyes? Are over-the-counter artificial tear solutions not doing the trick anymore? Fortunately, some procedures help relieve the signs and symptoms of dry eyes by dealing with the root cause.

Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment, a type of light therapy generally used for skin complications and other dermatologic diseases can now be used to treat chronic dry eyes caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).

Don’t let the persistent irritation caused by dry eyes take control of your daily life. Learn more about intense pulsed light treatment and how it can improve your eye condition and your life.

Read on as we discuss everything you need to know about IPL treatment.

What is Intense Pulsed Light Treatment?

Also known as flash lamp therapy, Intense Pulsed Light or IPL treatment uses a series of a controlled spectrum of light, quite similar to photo flash. Many optometrists consider IPL as one of the most groundbreaking procedures for dry eye disease.

It can directly deal with one of the leading causes of dry eyes, meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). MGD is the leading cause of over 80% of dry eye cases along with other factors. This dysfunction occurs when the meibomian glands don’t produce enough oil for the tears which keeps the eye moist.

ipl dry eye
IPL treatments usually use gel and eye protection

How can IPL help with dry eyes?

Watch this video by Dr Joseph Allen, Doctor Eye Health about IPL for Dry Eyes:

The IPL treatment stimulates the meibomian glands, helping them liquify and release hardened oils clogged in the glands. IPL acts like a potent warm compress that relieves eyes from the aggravating dry eye symptoms.

IPL also reduces the excessive formation of blood vessels and inflammation of the eyelids that also contribute to MGD and dry eyes. It helps treat eyelid redness, stimulating healthy gland function and offering long-term treatment of chronic dry eye disease.

The IPL procedure

Your optometrist will start with a comprehensive eye assessment to diagnose the severity of the meibomian gland dysfunction and determine your skin type. The assessment guarantees an appropriate treatment action plan specially tailored for your particular dry eye case.

Once your optometrist confirms that IPL is right for you, they will schedule a minimum of four sessions of IPL treatment over three months and additional courses as needed.

IPL (Lumenis) demonstration

Here’s how the IPL procedure works:

  • Patients remove makeup and other skin products from the skin.
  • The eye doctor places IPL eye pads over the closed eyes and shields the eyes with protective goggles.
  • The optometrist applies conductive gel beneath the eyelid area.
  • The patient receives one full pass of the pulsed light with overlapping flashes that ensures even treatment of the eyelid area.
  • The doctor applies more conductive gel before performing a second pass.
  • After deeming the patient had enough IPL flashes, the doctor will then remove the gel.

Further treatment may be administered in conjunction with IPL as recommended by your optometrist, like meibomian gland expression. In this procedure, the doctor squeezes out the contents of your meibomian glands by compressing the lower eyelids.

How fast does IPL work?

Each session of IPL usually takes 10 – 15 minutes. You can expect to experience relief within a few minutes of your first session. Once you’re able to complete the whole course of treatment, you can anticipate more improvement and evident comfort and relief from dry eyes.

What are the side effects of IPL for Dry Eye?

Like any other treatment, you’re probably wondering about the potential side effects of IPL. In rare circumstances, you may experience a few adverse side effects after undergoing IPL treatment, but they are typically minor and temporary.

You may experience the following side effects after the IPL treatment.

  • Discomfort
  • Redness on the treated skin area
  • Tingling sensations
  • Mild mucus discharge
  • Slight inflammation which might be caused by glad expression rather than the IPL treatment itself
  • Lightening of the skin for dark-skinned or tanned individuals

As stated, these side effects are relatively mild and somewhat rare. If any of these side effects persist, call your doctor immediately.

IPL treatment restrictions

There are a few factors that may prevent you from getting IPL treatment.

  • IPL is not advisable for pregnant women.
  • IPL should be used with discretion if you have skin phototype VI or very dark skin. Darker skin pigment tends to absorb light.
  • You can’t undergo the treatment if you have birthmarks, moles, keloid scarring or tattoo near your eyelid areas and if you have a fake tan.
  • Conditions like xeroderma and lupus disease can also prevent you from undergoing IPL treatment.
  • Taking collagen injections, certain medicines that increase photo-sensitivity, vitamin A, RetinA, or glycolic acid, doxycycline, ibuprofen, and aspirin can also affect your eligibility for IPL treatment.

How to prepare for IPL treatment

Before your scheduled IPL treatment session…

  • Avoid too much sun exposure.
  • Do not expose your skin to UV light and artificial tan (sprays, lotions, gels, etc.) before and in between your IPL sessions.
  • Avoid swimming in strongly chlorinated water before your treatment
  • Don’t use exfoliating or peeling products for a week before your appointment.
  • Avoid intake of aspirin or ibuprofen for a week before your scheduled session. Inform your doctor if your taking medications beforehand.
  • Remove all makeup and other skin products.
  • Keep the area to be treated clean and dry.

IPL aftercare

After you undergo an IPL treatment session…

  • Avoid too much sun exposure to reduce chances of dark and light spots formation on the treated area.
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on the treated area.
  • Do not expose the treated area to UV light.
  • Do not pick on the treated area.
  • Avoid hot baths, showers or sauna for a week. Humid conditions can aggravate the treated area.
  • Make sure you use moisturizer if applying make up after the treatment.

Your doctor might also advise supplements and dietary recommendations, natural remedies, lifestyle changes, and other best practices to ensure the health of your eyes and meibomian glands.

IPL Dry Eye Cost

Prior to your treatment, your doctor will discuss the likely number of treatments with you. Typically, this is around four treatments. Treatments are often spaced between two to four weeks apart.

Doctors often recommend a minimum of four treatments. Treatment costs vary, but are usually around a few hundred dollars per session.

Will your health insurance pay for any of the treatment? Although your visits are unlikely to be covered by your health insurance, it may be worth asking anyway. If they do, you might get to claim some reimbursement. Talk to your doctor or practice staff for more information.

Intense Pulsed Light Treatment FAQ

Here is a list of questions and answers you may need to take into consideration before deciding on IPL treatment.

  • Is intense pulsed light the same as laser?

IPL utilizes broader range wavelengths of intense light, unlike laser treatment that operates on a narrower, specific wavelength, making IPL safer and gentler than laser.

  • Does intense pulsed light hurt?

You may experience some redness and a little discomfort in the treated areas, but they are mild and will only last for a few minutes or hours after the session.

  • How much does it cost?

The cost of IPL treatment varies depending on the clinics and the equipment and technology they use. A treatment plan can cost $800 – $1000 for three or four sessions. Initial comprehensive eye assessment and additional procedures like meibomian gland expression may cost extra depending on the treatment plan you manage to procure.

Some dry eye sufferers spend just as much on eye drops and medicines alone. Investing in IPL treatment offers long-term results that can save you tons of money in the long run.

  • Is IPL for dry eye covered by insurance?

Insurance does not cover the cost of IPL, and the charge for each treatment session can vary depending on the optometrist and the equipment they use. It is best to consult with a few optometrists or get some trustworthy recommendations first before booking a session.

  • How often do I need to have IPL for dry eye?

Patients can expect visible improvement in their dry eye symptoms after the first series of IPL treatment. Your doctor might recommend occasional maintenance treatments.

Your optometrist may advise you to come back for an additional session of IPL treatment every three to six months, depending on how severe your dry eyes are and how your eyes will initially react to the procedure.

  • Will I still need drops if I finish a course of IPL?

You no longer need eye drops once you have finished a course of IPL treatment. If you feel like your symptoms are coming back, though it can be after a very long time, you can go for an extra session of IPL treatment.

Why should you consider IPL for Dry Eye?

  • The intense pulsed light treatment deals with the root cause of dry eye disease.
  • Unlike laser treatments, IPL is easy on the skin. You may even notice an improvement in the treated skin area after the sessions.
  • IPL can also improve your vision and provide eye comfort.
  • The treatment is safe and ensures little to no discomfort during the procedure.
  • Each session only takes around 10 minutes.
  • By dealing with the root cause of the disease, IPL reduces your dependency on eye drops and other pharmaceutical remedies.

Once you experience dry eye symptoms, they are most likely to linger for the rest of your life. Dry eyes may not be permanently curable, but proper management and the correct treatment can offer long-term eye comfort and relief from the distressing dry eye symptoms.

Continually dealing with irritating dry eyes with medications and artificial tears with little to no success can get vexing. It might be best to consider a more advanced treatment like IPL therapy.

Contact your Dry Eye Doctor now for a consultation!