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What to Expect During Your IPL Treatment for Dry Eye

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An optometrist using OptiLight IPL therapy to treat a female patient's dry eye syndrome.

Many individuals suffer from chronic dry eye syndrome (DES), leading to irritated eyes and discomfort. Traditional treatments for dry eyes include artificial tears, ointments, and warm compresses to help alleviate symptoms of dry eyes. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy is a noninvasive procedure that targets the root cause of dry eyes to provide long-term comfort and relief.

We will walk you through the causes of dry eyes, how IPL therapy works to alleviate dry eyes, and what happens before, during, and after the IPL treatment session we provide at Higgins Brothers’ Vision Care.

What Causes Dry Eyes?

Dry eye is a common eye condition that affects around 16 million people. Dry eye affects your tear film which is responsible for keeping your eyes hydrated. The tear film consists of 3 layers, and problems with any of the layers can affect tear production, causing your eyes to feel irritated and uncomfortable. 

Various factors can impact the tear film, such as hormone changes, autoimmune diseases, inflamed eyelid glands, or allergies.

Evaporative dry eye occurs when the tear film is blocked, and unable to produce the oil content it needs to keep your eye hydrated and moisturized. Meibomian glands are small glands on the edges of your eyelid. These glands produce the oil your tear film uses to keep your eye hydrated and moisturized. When these become clogged it impacts oil production leading to increased dryness and irritation.

Causes of evaporative dry eye can include: 

  • Meibomian gland dysfunction is the leading cause of dry eye.  
  • Infrequent blinking. This may be due to health conditions like Parkinson’s disease or because of focus during activities like reading, driving, or computer use. 
  • Eyelid problems, such as the eyelid turning outwards or inwards
  • Eye allergies 
  • Vitamin A deficiency 

Aqueous dry eye occurs when an individual is unable to produce enough liquid tears (aqueous fluid). Aqueous dry eye is not as common as evaporative dry eye but affects about 1 in 10 dry eye patients. 

While these dry eyes are different, they can cause similar symptoms such as: 

  • Red, irritated, or watery eyes 
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision

What is IPL?

IPL treatment is a noninvasive, painless procedure that uses precise light pulses to stimulate the tissues and glands around the eyes. This treatment helps to stabilize and promote the natural flow of oil to the tear film from your meibomian glands. It’s performed by your optometrist and treats the root cause of dry eye. 

At Higgins Brothers’ Vision Care, we are proud to offer OptiLight by Lumenis to our patients, specially designed for dry eye management. OptiLight by Lumenis is a light-based, non-invasive treatment done in the area below the eyes to manage dry eye. The first and only IPL FDA-approved for dry eye management.

The light pulses from IPL treatment penetrate the skin to help:

  • Reduce inflammation 
  • Reduce oil buildup, debris, and bacteria around the eyes
  • Unclog the meibomian glands to help promote gland function

IPL treatment works to treat the root cause of dry eye caused by meibomian gland dysfunction which provides long-term relief. Artificial tears and warm compresses can help to soothe dry eyes, but they only provide short-term relief for mild to moderate dry eyes. 

Anyone experiencing dry eyes may benefit from IPL treatment. However, the treatment itself is designed to target meibomian gland blockage which occurs in individuals who are experiencing evaporative dry eye. Your optometrist will discuss the best dry eye treatment option for your needs. 

IPL treatment is not recommended for individuals who have a history of keloid scarring or who have severe scarring around the eyes. 

A close-up view of a woman's clear eyes.

What To Expect From IPL Treatment

Before Your Treatment 

Before your first treatment session, you will have a consult with your optometrist. This will include a review of your medical history and a discussion about any medications you may be currently taking. Before the appointment, it’s advised to:

  • Avoid direct sun exposure and wear sun protection for a few days. Avoid tanning beds for a few weeks.
  • Inform your optometrist of any skincare products or treatments like retinoids you may be taking.
  • Notify your optometrist if you are taking any anti-inflammatory medication, antihistamines, or antibiotics.
  • Avoid wearing makeup and with a fresh, clean face. We have makeup wipes in the clinic if needed.
  • Do not wear contact lenses to your appointment. But we can remove them in the clinic if needed. 

During Your Treatment

The treatment itself is quick and takes about 10-15 minutes. During the session you may feel some pressure, warm heat, and bright light, but no pain.

  • You will have protective goggles to shield your eyes against the bright light of IPL 
  • The IPL device is placed close to your face and the light is applied in a series of flashes around your eyes
  • Your eyelids will be treated by the applied heat from the device to warm and unclog the oil glands around the lids 
  • Some gentle pressure may be applied to help ensure there’s no blockage in the oil glands

If you feel any pain or discomfort during your IPL treatment, inform your optometrist right away. 

After Your Treatment 

The noninvasive nature of IPL means no downtime, you can continue the rest of your daily activities. Some patients may experience improvement in their dry eye right after the first session. It typically takes about 3 sessions to notice a significant improvement in dryness. After the procedure: 

  • You may experience some redness around the skin. Keep your skin moisturized and use sun protection at least 3 days after the treatment. 
  • Wear sunglasses for at least 15 days after the session
  • Your optometrist may suggest using artificial tears and warm compresses to help supplement the effects of the treatment
  • Avoid other medical cosmetic treatments that are performed on the face and around the eyes for the duration of the treatment cycle 

Consult Your Optometrist in Plainville

The road to relief from dry eye syndrome can be long, but IPL therapy can provide significant relief.

Remember to be gentle with your eyes in the days following treatment, and keep a dialogue open with your eye care specialist about what you’re experiencing. With each session, you’re taking a step closer to a clear, comfortable vision!

Contact our team at Higgins Brothers’ Vision Care to schedule a consult for your IPL therapy!

Dr. Donald J. Higgins

Written by Dr. Donald J. Higgins

Dr. Donald J. Higgins is the founder and Medical Director of the Dry Eye Treatment Center of Connecticut, a clinic specializing in diagnosing and treating dry eye disease. This clinic features Tear Lab, Oculus with Crystal Dry Eye Report, Equinox LLLT, Lipiflow, and Lumenis OptiLight treatments.

Dr. Higgins decided to become an eye doctor his junior year in high school and has never looked back. In his undergraduate studies, Dr. Higgins received the Trustees Prize in Science, the highest award presented to a science student. He graduated from Boston College in 1978 and began attending the New England College of Optometry. After graduating in 1982, he returned to his hometown of Plainville and has been in private practice ever since.

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