IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) therapy is a quick and painless therapy which treats the underlying cause of evaporative dry eye.
How does it work?
Our tear film on the surface of the eye has a watery mucous gel normally covered in an oily layer. This oily layer is produced by Meibomian glands in the eyelids. Sometimes the oils produced by these glands become thickened and the glands can become blocked – this is known as Meibomian gland dysfunction or MGD. When MGD develops gaps appear in the oily layer which lets the watery gel underneath evaporate. As the tear film evaporates the surface of the eye dries out.
IPL therapy applies a regulated pulsed light treatment to the area around the eye which leads to improvement in the quality of oil produced by the Meibomian glands and helps to unblock them. The increased oil production restores the protective oily layer helping to reduce evaporation and improve dry eye symptoms.
Is it painful?
Not at all. During IPL treatment we apply protective goggles and a cooling, water based gel surrounding the eye. Normally 5 flashes of IPL are applied to the area around each eye and then the cooling gel is gently removed. It is not uncommon to feel the warmth of each flash of light but there is no pain. Any blocked Meibomian glands will then be expressed to help clear any build up or blockage of meibum.
It is sensible to use SPF30 or higher for 2 weeks after treatment to protect the treated area from sun exposure. Anyone who has been using warm compress treatments such as an Optase mask or EyeBag should continue this.
How often do I need treated?
We normally recommend a course of 3 treatments, with the second and third treatments at two weeks and six weeks after the initial visit. For some more advanced cases a fourth treatment is needed ten weeks after the initial visit.
Your optometrist will advise on when any top-up re-treatments are required but this is usually at least 12 months from the initial course of treatments.
Am I suitable for IPL?
Before considering IPL you will need to visit us for a full dry eye assessment with one of our Optometrists unless you have been referred directly by an Ophthalmologist.
The condition of your Meibomian glands are assessed during your dry eye assessment. We do this by taking a photo of the glands in your top and bottom eyelids using infrared light (meibography) and assessing the quality of oil that is produced by the glands. If your Optometrist thinks that you would benefit from IPL then they will discuss this with you as part of a range of treatment options.
Like any medical treatment there are occasionally patients who are not suitable for IPL and your Optometrist will discuss these with you during your assessment. Most common reasons would include pregnancy, a previous history of skin cancer, tanning or photosensitive treatments in the previous month or any active skin problems.