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What Is IPL Treatment for Dry Eye and How Does It Work?

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A woman receives a dry eye exam from her optometrist.

Dry eye is a common condition that affects 30% of Canadians, causing discomfort in everyday life. If you’re one of those experiencing dry eye, you may have tried everything from eye drops to warm compresses, but nothing seems to work. 

This is where IPL treatment comes in. IPL, or intense pulsed light therapy, is a treatment for dry eye. IPL works by heating up the meibomian glands and melting hardened oils that are clogging the glands. This allows for easier secretion of oils into the tears, helping to alleviate dry eye.

It is important to first speak with your eye doctor and get a comprehensive eye exam before undergoing any new treatments, including IPL.

What Is IPL for Dry Eye?

IPL treatment uses light pulses to stimulate the meibomian glands in the eyelids, which produce the oil that lubricates the eyes. 

The device used in the procedure emits bursts of light that are absorbed by the blood vessels in the eyelids, causing them to close up and reduce inflammation. This, in turn, helps the meibomian glands function better, leading to improved tear production and better eye lubrication.

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye, which is quite common, happens when your eyes aren’t making enough tears or the tears they do make aren’t up to par. Tears play a crucial role in keeping our eyes healthy–they lubricate, nourish, and maintain the overall wellbeing of the eyes. When this balance is disrupted, it can lead to dry, irritated eyes.

Types of Dry Eye

There are two main types of dry eye. The first is called aqueous tear-deficient dry eye, which means that the water layer of your tears is too thin. This can happen if you’re not producing enough tears or if they’re evaporating too quickly. 

The second type is evaporative dry eye, where the lipid (or oily) layer of your tears isn’t doing its job properly, causing your tears to evaporate too quickly.

Factors Contributing to Dry Eye

Various factors contribute to dry eye. Your diet plays a significant role. If you’re not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in foods like fish and flaxseeds, you may experience dry eye.

Your environment and weather conditions also matter. If you’re in a dry or windy place, or even in a room with air conditioning, your tears may evaporate too quickly, resulting in dry eye.

Screen time is another factor. When you’re engrossed in your computer or phone screen, you tend to blink less, which can cause your eyes to dry out.

Certain health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, lupus, and Sjögren’s syndrome can increase your risk of dry eye, too. Other causes can include age, hormonal changes, and certain medications.

It’s important to note that dry eye disease can occur even in otherwise healthy individuals. It becomes more prevalent with age due to hormonal changes. Early detection and proactive management of dry eye disease may help prevent further complications like corneal ulcers and scarring.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like dryness, irritation, or even blurry vision, it’s a good idea to chat with an eye doctor. They can diagnose the type of dry eye disease you have and suggest suitable treatments to manage the condition.

How Does IPL Work for Dry Eye?

IPL treatment focuses on one of the root causes of dry eye, meibomian gland dysfunction. It targets the eyelid’s blood vessels and reduces inflammation, allowing the meibomian glands to function correctly. 

The therapy is administered over a series of sessions, typically 4 to 6, spaced several weeks apart. You’ll feel a warm sensation on your eyelids during the procedure, but it’s generally comfortable and lasts for around 15 minutes. 

Most patients notice a considerable improvement in their dry eye symptoms after 2 to 3 sessions.

Benefits of IPL Treatment for Dry Eye

One of the primary benefits of IPL treatment is that it’s a noninvasive option for those with dry eye. It’s also a long-term solution that offers relief for up to six months or more. 

IPL treatment is also ideal for those who have tried other methods to relieve dry eye symptoms but haven’t seen any significant improvement. The treatment’s side effects are minimal, and there’s no downtime required after the procedure. 

What to Expect During IPL Treatment

Before your IPL treatment, your eye doctor will conduct a comprehensive eye exam to determine if you’re a candidate for the therapy. If you and your doctor decide to proceed with the treatment, you can expect the following:

First off, you’ll put on protective eyewear. Then, your doctor will apply a cool gel to your skin. It’s there to help the light from the IPL device reach the deeper layers of your skin without causing any discomfort.

Your doctor will gently press the IPL device against your skin and start releasing pulses of light. It might feel a bit like a rubber band snapping. Once all the necessary areas have been treated, your doctor will remove the gel and clean your skin.

After that, they’ll massage your eyelids to help release those hardened oils that have been clogging up your tear glands.

The whole process typically takes about 15 minutes, and most people start noticing improvements after their first or second session.

At the end of each session, you may notice some mild swelling or redness, but this usually resolves within a few hours.

A woman in an optical clinic shaking hands with her optometrist

Get Dry Eye Treatment in Edmonton

If you’re tired of living with dry eye symptoms and looking for a lasting solution, consider IPL therapy. By targeting the root cause of dry eye, meibomian gland dysfunction, IPL therapy stimulates the glands to produce natural oils that help lubricate dry eyes. Speak to your eye doctor at Calgary Trail Vision Centre to determine if IPL is the right choice for you. Book your appointment today.


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