Dry Eyes: What Is Intense Pulsed Light Therapy? 

Dr. Russel Lazarus, December 13, 2020
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Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy treats the underlying cause of meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) and dry eye syndrome (DES), providing long lasting results for millions of dry eye patients. 

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that results from insufficient tear quantity or inadequate tear quality.

Our tears are responsible for lubricating our eyes to keep them healthy and nourished. The tear film consists of three components: oil, water, and mucus. Each of these components is essential to maintain the quality and quantity of the tears.

A problem within any of these essential components can cause an imbalance within the tear film and affect tear production— consequently leading to dry eye syndrome (DES).

Approximately 80 percent of DES cases are caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).

The meibomian glands are the oil glands that line the edges of your upper and lower eyelids, at the base of your eyelashes. These glands secrete the oil (meibum) that coats the eyes and tear film, to prevent the tears from evaporating too quickly.

Meibomian gland dysfunction is a common condition that occurs when the meibomian glands become blocked with thick secretions, preventing oil from flowing freely into the tear film and affecting its quality as well.

When MGD becomes a chronic problem, it can cause permanent damage to the tear film and lead to DES.

If you have MGD contact an eye doctor near you who can help manage your MGD.

Find an eye doctor near you

How does IPL therapy treat DES? 

Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy is a painless, in-office treatment that effectively treats the underlying cause of DES. 

During this procedure, gentle pulses of light are delivered to the skin adjacent to the eyes to reduce inflammation and eliminate any bacterial infection. These pulses melt the thick secretions on the eyelids, release the buildup of oil, and unclog the meibomian glands.

This specialized treatment stimulates the natural flow of oil into the tears, stabilizes the tear film and improves dry eye symptoms. 

What to expect during your IPL treatment

Before beginning the IPL treatment, your doctor will place eye shields over your eyelids to protect them from the bright light pulses. A thin layer of cooling gel will also be applied to the skin around your eyes to protect that sensitive area as well.

Your doctor will then hold a small device over your eyelids to administer the pulses of light. The heat from the light pulses will then lead to the melting of the thick, crusty secretions blocking your oil glands.

After the IPL has successfully opened your meibomian glands, your doctor may also express a small amount of oil from the glands in your eyelids to stimulate normal oil flow.

What to expect after your IPL treatment

Most patients will notice an improvement in their dry eye symptoms following their first or second IPL treatment. However, it is generally recommended to return for additional treatments on a monthly basis for a four month period to ensure optimal results.

For severe DES, additional treatments may be recommended to maintain healthy meibomian gland function and prevent the condition from recurring.

Some eye doctors recommend IPL therapy in combination with other dry eye treatments for even greater success and dry eye relief.

Is IPL therapy right for you?

If you are experiencing chronic dry eye symptoms that are affecting your productivity and quality of life, your eye doctor may recommend IPL therapy.

Intense pulsed light therapy is used to treat the underlying cause of DES to ensure long lasting relief from your uncomfortable symptoms.

While artificial tears, warm compresses, and eyelid scrubs can help to soothe your dry eyes, they may only provide short term relief and are most effective for mild to moderate dry eye conditions.

Dry eye syndrome does not have to be a condition you learn to live with. Contact an eye doctor about IPL therapy to get the help you need for a lifetime of healthy, comfortable eyes and vision.