Should you consider IPL for Dry Eye

Dry eye was once thought to be nothing more than an irritating temporary discomfort of the eyes. Usually dismissed as tiredness, reading for too long, or an expected symptom accompanying the itch of hayfever allergies. Years later, the eye care profession now recognises dry eye as an actual disease. With potential for significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. Dry eye technology has evolved from instilling saline drops to the revolutionary IPL for dry eye treatment.

Dry Eye Disease

Often quoted with a global prevalence of up to 50%. This number may be even higher due to a large degree of underdiagnosis of what seems like an innocuous condition. The severity of dry eye symptoms varies from person to person. Some individuals may not even realise the symptoms they experience are in fact due to dry eye. Some cases may be quite obvious and are easy to self-diagnose. Other patients may need proper examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to discover the underlying cause of their red, irritated eyes. You may be suffering from dry eye disease if you experience any of the following symptoms. Particularly, if they are frequent and recurrent:
  • A dry sensation of the eyes
  • Gritty, burning, stinging, or foreign body sensation in the eyes
  • Variable vision that fluctuates particularly between blinking
  • Tired eyes even if the rest of your body doesn’t feel physically tired
Through research, eye care practitioners are recognising that the severity of symptoms that a patient reports does not always correlate to the signs of dry eye a clinician may observe in an examination. This works both ways. With a patient reporting very severe, debilitating dry eye symptoms but a clinical exam noting very few signs of dryness, and vice versa. Certain conditions worsen with dry eye symptoms. Prolonged reading or computer work, or dry, air-conditioned environments contribute to this. Systemic diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, and certain medications, including antidepressants and antihistamines, can also worsen dry eye symptoms. There are two basic categories of dry eye disease. Separated by their broad underlying causes. Meibomian gland dysfunction and aqueous deficiency dry eye. Some cases of dry eye may be a combination of both Meibomian gland dysfunction and aqueous deficiency. The vast majority will have a Meibomian gland dysfunction component. Treatment is most effective when tailored to each patient since many factors contribute to each case.

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

The tear film is a complex structure, comprised of a lot more than water. The topmost layer of the tear film is actually an oil layer. Produced by the sebum-secreting Meibomian glands lining the top and bottom eyelid margins. The purpose of this oil layer is to reduce evaporation of the aqueous layer, which makes up the bulk of the tear film. The third innermost layer is the mucin layer, which functions to adhere the tear film to the surface of the eye. In Meibomian gland dysfunction, both the quality and quantity of the oils may be compromised. This leads to what is termed “evaporative dry eye”. Accumulation of bacteria from the skin, inflammation of the eyelids and Meibomian glands. As well as, narrowing of the glands and their openings all contribute to Meibomian gland dysfunction and later, dry eye.

IPL as Dry Eye Therapy

The benefits of IPL (intense pulsed light) for Meibomian gland dysfunction were discovered accidentally. In 2002, an American ophthalmologist noticed patients receiving IPL treatment for acne rosacea of the skin, who reported improvement to the comfort of their eyes. Further investigation found that application of the 500 to 800nm wavelength intense light to the facial areas around the eyes improved the function of the Meibomian glands. Through the reduction of bacterial load and softening of solidified oils within the glands. Abnormal blood vessel growth around the eyelids as a result of chronic inflammation was also treated with IPL therapy. Helping to disrupt the cycle of inflammation and red eyes. More importantly, the subjective dry eye symptoms reported by patients improved under IPL therapy. The treatment protocol may vary depending on the practitioner and specific IPL device. It usually involves skin typing to allow the machine to be fixed to the appropriate setting. Followed by application of an ultrasound gel to the face, from the temples to the nose. The eyes themselves are protected with goggles or specialised pads and do not receive any light directly. Pulses of light of specific wavelengths are then applied across the face around the eye area. Your clinician may perform this twice for each side. Many patients will require maintenance treatments of IPL to keep their dry eye disease at bay. Depending on the individual, these visits can range from every three months to once a year.
IPL therapy can be very effective for Meibomian gland dysfunction and evaporative dry eye but is one in a suite of dry eye treatments. If you think you may be suffering from dry eye, contact Eye Laser Specialists here at 03 8372 0187 to book in a dry eye assessment.

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