IPL (or intense pulsed light) is probably best known for hair removal, and the reduction of skin pigment. But more recently it has added a new arrow to its quiver, with the treatment of dry eyes.

Is IPL safe?

Intense pulsed light has been used for over two decades now for the treatment of acne rosacea and has been shown to be very effective. There have been fewer studies on the effectiveness of IPL in treating ocular rosacea and MGD (meibomian gland dysfunction) but a recent study from the University of Auckland showed that intense pulsed light was effective in reducing dry eye symptoms and improving tear film quality.

Does it work?

Your tear film consists of a layer of watery tears covered with a thin film of oil, which prevents the watery layer from evaporating. If the oily layer is of poor quality, the whole tear film is affected and dry eyes can result. Oil is produced in the meibomian glands, which are situated along the eye lid margins. These glands can become inflamed due to the presence of spider veins in the surrounding delicate tissues of the eyelids.

IPL targets these blood vessels resulting in a better eyelid appearance as well as better function of the eyelid glands.  During IPL treatment, infra-red light is targeted at these blood vessels and closes them down. This allows the glands more space to function properly.

Ocular rosacea.

IPL treatment for dry eyes

At The Eye Practice, we can do your first IPL treatment on the day of your dry eye assessment – if you are found to be a good candidate for it.  Usually three treatments are needed, about a month apart. Treatment is quick (15 minutes per eye) and painless. A minimum of three treatments over a three-month period is recommended.

IPL- not a panacea

IPL does not help all forms of dry eye. In fact, we have found that it is really only beneficial for patients who have tiny spider veins in the skin of their eyelids. This is ocular rosacea and can occur in conjunction with other forms of rosacea and vascular problems such as spider veins and varicose veins. IPL can be a waste of time and money if you are not the right patient for it.

Accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause is a hugely important part of the effective management of this eye disease. There are no magic bullets.  It may be that another professional in-house treatment (such as Blephex) may be more appropriate for your particular eyes. Or perhaps managing inflammation will be the key to successful management in your case.