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IPL Dry Eye Treatment Side Effects

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Dry eye syndrome can occur when your eyes fail to produce enough tears or produce poor-quality tears, leaving them feeling dry, irritated, and uncomfortable. Living with dry eyes can be challenging, but there’s hope: intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment is an effective and safe option for treating dry eyes caused by meibomian gland dysfunction.

IPL for dry eye is safe, but there are potential side effects, including eye irritation or redness, that can develop if the device isn’t used correctly. It’s crucial to only receive treatment from a trained eye care professional for relief from dry eye symptoms.  

What Is Dry Eye from Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

The most common cause of dry eye is meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), which affects about 85% of patients diagnosed with dry eye. The meibomian glands are tiny glands located in your eyelid margins, responsible for producing the oil layer of your tears.

Oils help keep your tears from evaporating too quickly and provide protection to the surface of your eye. When you have meibomian gland dysfunction, these glands become blocked or damaged, making it difficult for them to produce adequate amounts of oil, which can lead to dry eye symptoms.

Symptoms of meibomian gland dysfunction may vary from person to person but can include:

  • Burning or gritty eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Discomfort wearing contact lenses
  • Foreign body sensation in the eye
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye fatigue

What Is IPL Dry Eye Treatment?

Intense pulsed light (IPL) is a treatment that uses light energy to stimulate healthy tear production. The treatment involves the use of a specialized device that emits pulses of light over the lower eyelids and upper cheeks.

The light targets the skin and heats the meibomian glands, unclogging them and helping them produce healthier oil. This, in turn, helps the tears retain moisture, reducing dryness and irritation in the eyes.

What to Expect During IPL Treatment

The IPL dry eye treatment is a noninvasive, gentle, and quick procedure that typically takes about 10–15 minutes.

Before the procedure, you will be given protective eyewear, and a cooling gel may be applied to the treatment area. Then, the IPL device will be placed over your skin, and you may feel a mild sensation of warmth while it works.

IPL can relieve dry eye symptoms by:

  • Increasing tear break-up time
  • Reducing the number of Demodex mites and bacteria living on the eyelid margins
  • Reducing blood vessels that contribute to inflammation
  • Improving healthy meibomian gland function

After the procedure, you can typically return to your daily activities without downtime.

Is IPL Treatment Safe?

IPL dry eye treatment is a proven effective option for treating dry eye syndrome. The procedure targets the meibomian glands, leaving the surrounding skin and tissues unharmed. IPL treatment has been approved by the FDA as a safe option for treating dry eyes, and it has been used successfully for many years to provide long-term dry eye relief.

Benefits of IPL Dry Eye Treatment

One of the most significant benefits of IPL is that it is a drug-free option for relieving dry eye. Many dry eye sufferers take prescription eye drops, but those can be costly, cause rebound effects, and may only address the symptoms, not the cause of the problem.

IPL has been shown to improve gland function and significantly reduce symptoms, and studies have found that patients often see improvement after only a few treatments.

IPL dry eye treatment offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Reduced dryness and irritation in the eyes
  • Minimized discomfort when wearing contact lenses
  • Improved tear production and quality
  • Improved ye comfort
  • Younger looking skin

Potential IPL Side Effects

Importantly, IPL may not be covered by insurance. But by choosing IPL, you may avoid purchasing medicinal eye drops, save time on at-home remedies, and stop spending money on other treatments.

Some potential side effects of IPL treatment can include:

  • Temporary discomfort or redness
  • Skin irritation
  • Eyelash damage

However, adverse effects are rare. In the hands of an experienced optometrist, your IPL treatments can be performed under safe conditions. 

Is IPL Right for You?

A close-up of a woman with acne on her lower half of her face.

Your eyes are unique, so while IPL is an effective method to manage dry eye, a consultation is required to assess your unique medical history and eye health. You may not be a good candidate for IPL treatment if you:

  • Take certain medications, like Accutane
  • Have acne
  • Suffer from certain skin conditions
  • Are prone to keloid scarring
  • Have scarring
  • Have a recent sunburn

Achieve Long-Term Dry Eye Relief 

Only your optometrist can determine whether IPL treatment will be effective for your unique dry eye. Schedule an appointment with the team at Vision Care Grayslake for an eye exam, dry eye assessment, and treatment options for your dry eye.

Written by Dr. Charlotte Nielsen

Dr. Nielsen is a member of the Illinois Optometric Association (IOA) and the American Optometric Association (AOA). She has held several offices in the IOA, including president, and received the “Young Optometrist of the Year” from the IOA in 2000. Currently, she is the Illinois Key Person Coordinator for the AOA, and recipient of the Optometric Recognition Award from the AOA. Dr. Nielsen was named Illinois College of Optometry’s Alumna of the Year in 2008.
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