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What Is IPL Dry Eye Treatment?

A young woman holding her glasses in her right hand as she rubs her dry eyes using her left hand.

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that affects around 30% of Canadians. It occurs when the eyes don’t produce enough tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly. 

If you’ve been struggling with dry eyes and have tried various treatments without success, intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy can help treat the underlying cause of dry eyes. Before starting IPL treatment, your eye doctor will explore the cause of your dry eye during a comprehensive eye exam using diagnostic testing. 

Let’s explore what IPL dry eye treatment is, how it works, and why it has gained popularity as an effective solution.

What is Dry Eyes?

The surface of your eye is covered by the tear film, which is composed of 3 distinct layers

  1. Outer oil layer
  2. Middle water layer
  3. Inner mucus layer

A balanced tear film with 3 healthy layers helps lubricate the eye, protects it from foreign debris, nourishes the eye’s surface, and maintains a smooth eye surface for visual clarity. 

Dry eyes occur when the tear glands fail to produce sufficient tears or poor-quality tears that evaporate too quickly. Dry eyes often come with uncomfortable symptoms, such as:

  • A gritty or scratchy feeling
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Stinging or burning
  • Redness
  • Eye pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Watery eyes

Multiple factors can cause dry eyes. These include:

  • Age: The quantity of tears you produce decreases with age.
  • Hormonal changes: Dry eyes are more prevalent in women.
  • Environmental conditions: Dry air, air conditioning, and smoke can cause dry eye symptoms.  
  • Certain medications: Antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, and hormone replacement therapy can cause dry eye symptoms. 
  • Underlying health conditions: Diabetes, thyroid conditions, and Vitamin A deficiency can cause dry eyes. 
  • Eyelid inflammation: Such as blepharitis, can affect oil production in tears.
  • Prolonged screen time: Digital eye strain can cause dry eyes. 
  • Prolonged contact lens use: Contact lens wearers are more at risk of developing dry eyes. 

Dry Eye Treatments

Dry eye treatment often begins with over-the-counter artificial tears, which provide temporary relief by lubricating the eyes. In more severe cases, your eye doctor may prescribe eye drops, medication, or punctal plugs. 

While these treatments can be effective for many individuals, IPL therapy can help treat underlying causes like meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). MGD occurs when the meibomian glands in the eyelid become clogged, which play a vital role in producing the oily component of tears.

What is IPL Dry Eye Treatment?

IPL is a painless, non-invasive in-office treatment that uses gentle pulses of light, targeting the skin around the eyes to reduce inflammation. This innovative treatment helps break up and melt oil buildup in the clogged glands.

How Does IPL Work For Dry Eyes?

During an IPL treatment, your eye doctor will place protective eyewear over your eyes.

Your eye doctor will then place a handheld device that emits pulses of light over your eyelids. When the meibomian glands are clear, your eye doctor may gently express a small amount of oil to help stimulate natural oil production. 

IPL also targets the skin and blood vessels around the eyes, reducing inflammation and bacterial growth around the meibomian glands. Pulsed light stimulates the glands to produce healthier, more stable tears.

You can resume your normal activities immediately after your treatment. For chronic dry eyes, symptoms can improve after one or 2 visits. The exact number of treatments you need may vary depending on the severity of your dry eyes and your response to the treatment. 

Your eye doctor will recommend how many IPL treatments you’ll need for the best results. A combined approach with IPL and low-level light therapy (LLLT) can help some people find relief compared to other treatment methods.  LLLT uses a low level red light which stimulates cellular metabolism, increases blood flow, reduces inflammation and promotes healing.

Apart from IPL and other therapies, proper nutrition can also help provide dry eye relief. Omega-3 fatty acids can help treat dry eyes because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Including foods high in omega-3s or taking supplements derived from fish or algae to your diet can support your eye health. But remember to speak to your eye doctor before taking any supplements. 

The Benefits of IPL Dry Eye Treatment

Here are some benefits of IPL treatment for dry eye:

  • It’s a non-invasive treatment
  • It addresses the underlying cause of dry eyes, not just the symptoms
  • It provides longer-lasting relief than more traditional treatments 
  • It can improve meibomian gland function, reduce inflammation, and increase tear film stability
A man sitting in an optometrist's office looking into a machine that tests his eyes for dry eye syndrome.

Long-Lasting Relief from Dry Eyes

If you’re battling dry eye symptoms and aren’t finding relief from other treatments, IPL therapy may be for you. It’s important to note that while IPL has shown promising results for many patients, your outcomes may vary. Book an appointment with One Vision Eyecare to determine if IPL treatment will work for you.

Written by Dr. Jay Gill

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