Written and Medically Reviewed by Dr Leigh Plowman, Optometrist (updated Sept 2022)
What is Lipiflow for Dry Eyes?
Lipiflow is a heat treatment for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction. You may have head that clogged oil glands are part of the problem for dry eyes. Lipiflow helps to remove these blockages in a warm, soothing way.
Read on as we discuss LipiFlow in-depth and uncover how the device can help treat dry eye disease.
A Brief Background on MGD
Before we further explore LipiFlow, let us first discuss the most common root cause of dry eyes, meibomian gland dysfunction or MGD.
Our tears contain three layers — oil (lipid) layer, water (aqueous) layer and a mucin layer. These three layers are responsible for keeping the eye surface lubricated.
Our meibomian glands located along the rims of the eyelids are responsible for the secretion of oil to the tear film.
With meibomian gland dysfunction, the glands become clogged, causing insufficient oil production for the tear film.
The amount of oil or its quality decrease when there is a dysfunction in the glands.
MGD causes tears to evaporate too quickly, resulting in dry eyes.
Meibomian gland dysfunction is the most common root cause of dry eyes. Approximately 86% of patients diagnosed with dry eyes are suffering from MGD.
Only eye specialists can adequately diagnose if someone has developed MGD.
There are several treatments they can recommend, but, the most common and relatively also the most effective is LipiFlow treatment.
What is Lipiflow?
LipiFlow is a treatment device invented by Dr Donald Korb along with his colleagues at Tear Science.
This device is specifically designed to remove blockages from the meibomian glands effectively.
Many specialists now consider LipiFlow as the standard treatment for MGD.
A LipiFlow device comes with a console and a single-use sterile device called the Activator. It uses a technology called Vectored Thermal Pulsation.
With this technology, the Activator sends heat pulses to the glands through the eyelids.
Here’s a video to explain more:
Lipiflow as Dry Eye Treatment
LipiFlow treatment deals directly with the most common root cause of dry eye disease.
It provides a warm and gentle heat to the eyelids while simultaneously applying a gentle massage.
This combination effectively removes the blockages in the meibomian glands and allows them to secrete the clogged oil.
After a session of LipiFLow treatment, the glands will be able to resume its natural production of oil for the tear film.
With sufficient oil layer in the tear film, the tear won’t evaporate too fast anymore, ensuring a much healthier eye surface.
One session can offer significant relief to patients suffering from dry eyes and MGD.
Procedure and FAQs
To diagnose dry eye disease, the eye doctor will conduct a tear osmolarity test. For MGD, a Lipiscan may be done. Only after a full assessment will it be confirmed if Lipiflow is the right treatment for your condition.
During the treatment, the Activator of the LipiFlow device will be applied to the eyelids one at a time. It will provide a war, consistent heat along with gentle massages that work to unclog the meibomian glands.
Although it is not a surgical procedure, the treatment should still be done by a professional.
Does Lipiflow hurt?
LipiFlow procedure does not hurt. An anesthetic eye drop can also be applied to ensure a comfortable process. The Activator releases gentle heat that is not painful nor unsafe for the eyes. According to patients who have undergone the treatment, it is like getting a gentle eye massage.
How long does Lipiflow take?
Each session of LipiFlow treatment only takes approximately 12 minutes. The number of treatment sessions varies depending on the severity of each case and what the eye doctor will recommend for you.
How long does it take to see the results?
Some patients may immediately notice the results after a few days of undergoing the treatment while others may see the full effect within two weeks. Other patients may have to wait longer to feel the full effects. It can also vary depending on the severity of the MGD. It is best to confirm with your eye doctor the accurate timeline on when you can expect the results.
How long does the effect last?
Although it may take a few days or weeks to feel the full effect of LipiFlow treatment, the effectiveness of a single session can last up to one to two years. Again, this will vary from patient to patient.
It is also essential to understand that dry eyes and MGD are chronic conditions that can’t be cured. Patients may need to undergo the procedure at least once a year.
Warm compresses can help to loosen debris and keep the oil flowing better.
What are the possible side effects of the LipiFlow procedure?
LipiFlow is a safe and painless procedure, but it can also have some side effects on other patients.
Possible side effects include redness, slight burning or stinging, blurred vision, light sensitivity and dryness. These side effects are very rare and not permanent.
How much does LipiFlow cost?
Insurance typically does not cover LipiFlow treatment. Treatments around $1500 for the Lipiflow treatment.
Is LipiFlow for you?
It is essential to understand that LipiFlow treatment is not for every patient with dry eyes.
LipiFlow is specifically designed to treat Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, which also causes dry eye disease for many patients.
Other forms of dry eye may have a different root cause and may require a separate treatment plan.
Consult an eye specialist now and have a proper diagnosis for your dry eyes. Find a dry eye clinic now and get a full assessment.
Want to learn more about dry eye disease and its treatment? Check out this our guide to 31 Best Dry Eye Treatments.