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What Is IPL Treatment for Dry Eyes?

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A young woman standing and holding her glasses in her right hand as she rubs her left eyes with her left hand.

Dry eyes aren’t simply an inconvenience. Untreated dry eye disease can affect your vision in several ways and can be extremely uncomfortable. There are multiple ways to treat dry eye, but the treatment plan that our optometrists recommend will ultimately depend on what’s causing the symptoms.

Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment uses pulses of light to reduce inflammation in blood vessels around the eye and loosen oil blockages in the meibomian glands to alleviate dry eye symptoms caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).

MGD is a leading cause of evaporative dry eye because it affects the quality of our eye’s tear film. We’ll look at how IPL treatment differs from other dry eye treatments to help you make an informed decision when seeking relief.

What is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye disease is often referred to as simply dry eye. Approximately 30% of Canadians experience the uncomfortable symptoms associated with dry eye. It usually occurs when your eyes aren’t making enough tears or are not producing high-quality tears. The tear film is integral to this process, helping keep your eyes clean and healthy.

An adequate tear film increases comfort when blinking and helps protect the eye against contamination from germs and debris.

Types of Dry Eye Disease

There are 2 primary types of dry eye—evaporative dry eye and aqueous deficient dry eye.

Evaporative dry eye is the most common of the types and is characterized by the premature evaporation of the tear film. An imbalance in the mixture of water, oil, and proteins of the tear film typically causes this. One of the leading causes of evaporative dry eye is MGD.

Aqueous deficient dry eye is less common but just as uncomfortable. It’s characterized by a lack of tears produced by the tear glands. Age and certain medical conditions like Sjögren’s disease are the leading causes of aqueous deficient dry eye. 

Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease

The symptoms of each type of dry eye may be slightly different and occur with varying intensity. But there is a lot of overlap between them. Common symptoms of dry eye disease include:

  • Redness
  • Burning 
  • Grittiness or feeling like something is in the eye
  • Irritated feeling

What Is IPL Treatment?

IPL treatment originally began as a way to treat wrinkles, spots, or unwanted hair. It can remove or minimize the appearance of age spots, sun damage, wrinkles, or birthmarks. But as technology improved, doctors realized it could also be an effective treatment for dry eye disease.

How IPL Treats Dry Eye Disease

IPL treatment isn’t simply a blanket treatment that works for all dry eyes, but it can be an effective treatment when MGD is the condition’s root cause. 

During a study in 2021, researchers discovered that IPL treatments were far more effective than traditional dry eye treatments like a hot compress with manual gland expression.

A man sitting in an optometrist's office and looking into a machine that tests his vision.

IPL Compared to Other Treatment Options

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to treating dry eye. It ultimately depends on what’s causing the symptoms. Effective treatments for dry eye disease include:

  • Medicated eye drops
  • Lubricating eye drops
  • Omega-3 supplements
  • Heated masks or compresses
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Lubricating eye gels

One thing that some treatments have in common is that they primarily target symptoms. This can effectively provide the relief we need for many cases of dry eye. But IPL treatments can target the root of the symptoms when MGD prevents your eye from maintaining its tear film.

What to Expect from IPL Treatment

Although many of our patients may notice an improvement in their dry eye symptoms after the first treatment, IPL therapy isn’t necessarily a one-and-done treatment. We usually recommend 4 separate treatments spread out over a number of weeks as determined by our optometrists. 

Once you’ve reached the level of relief that you’re looking for, the results are long-lasting but still temporary. We’ll likely see you 1 or 2 times a year after that to maintain healthy meibomian glands.

Discuss Your Dry Eye Therapy Options with Us

Even though it’s a common condition, no one should live with the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eyes. Our experienced optometrists can help diagnose dry eye disease based on a brief eye exam and your description of the symptoms. We can also recommend a treatment plan for you once we get to the root cause.

Call our office at Aurora Eye Care today if you’re tired of dry, red, irritated eyes. Our professional eye care team can help answer your questions and get you in to see one of our optometrists.

Written by Dr. Kyla Hunter

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