Intense Pulsed Light Therapy
Recently, a treatment known as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) has become available to treat dry eye and blepharitis.
What are IPL treatments like?
IPL is a treatment administered in the office by your eye doctor. Shields are used to cover the eye itself during the treatment and a thin layer of cooling gel is applied to the treatment area. A handpiece attached to the light system is used to deliver the light to the treatment area on the upper face and across the nose region. A pulse of light is administered, and there is a tingling sensation that most patients tolerate quite well. The area treated may be slightly flushed and red for a short time after the treatment.
Is this a laser?
IPL is not a laser, but is light therapy over a broad range of wavelengths. A filter is used to select the range of wavelengths that is best for this treatment so as to warm the skin and close down the abnormal blood vessels associated with rosacea and blepharitis that otherwise lead to inflammation in the eyelids. IPL has been used for a long time for hair removal, age spots, sun damage, acne, irregularities of blood vessels and mottled skin pigmentation improvement. We use the equipment that is made by DermaMed International with treatment ranges from 8 to 14 mJ on the vascular to acne modes.
How many treatments will I need?
Most patients have significant improvement with one or two treatments. Typically one treatment is done per month for approximately 3-5 months, then maintenance treatments are given every 3-12 months following.
Who responds best to IPL treatment?
IPL treatment is for patients with moderate to severe dry eye, especially those with blepharitis, ocular rosacea, or meibomian gland dysfunction. The treatment helps to improve the health of the meibomian glands, which produce the oil that helps prevent evaporation of the tear film. When this layer is unhealthy, the tears evaporate too fast and the tear film may become smeary and inflamed, leading to blurry vision, burning of the eyes, discomfort of the eyes and redness in many patients.
What do I do after the treatment?
You may return to normal activities immediately following the treatment. Although this is important even without the IPL treatment, the use of sunblock is strongly recommended on all areas that are exposed to the sun.
What results can I expect?
After the initial treatment, most patients report some form of improvement in their symptoms. Studies have shown an objective increase in tear function after each treatment, with the maximum improvement happening after the fourth or fifth treatment. Depending on the severity of the problem, some patients may need fewer treatments, while others may need more. All patients likely will need maintenance therapy at least once a year.
What are my alternatives?
For dry eye and blepharitis, traditional treatments have been lid hygiene, artificial tears, cyclosporine drops, steroid drops, non-steroidal drops, topical and systemic antibiotics, vitamins, and lid shampoos. Many patients can still continue some or all of these treatments, although usually at a greatly decreased rate depending on the severity of their condition and the frequency of their desired treatments.