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5158 Buffalo Speedway
Houston, TX 77005

Dr. Bridgitte Shen Lee Dr. Bradley S. Owens Dr. Jennifer Sheen

Home » Ocular Surface Eye Disease » Intense Pulsed Light

Intense Pulsed Light

How can inflammation contribute to dry eyes and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)?

Inflammation in and around the eyelids and skin can affect the health and function of the meibomian glands.

Vascular abnormalities often develop in the presence of inflammation. Abnormal vessels begin releasing inflammatory agents which, when occuring near/around the eyes, spreads to the eyelids. This often results in inflammation of the eyelids and tear film, triggering ocular complications like eyelid redness, poor meibomian gland function, and increased frequency of chalazions/styes.


What is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)?

Intense Pulsed Light is a non-invasive and non-laser energy treatment for dry eyes and meibomian gland dysfunction that utilizes pulses of light to liquefy hardened oil (meibum) from meibomian glands. Abnormal vessels that supply the eyelid are eliminated, which decreases inflammation to the eyelids. IPL stimulates healthy meibomian gland function, reduces eyelid redness, and reduces the population of demodex and bacteria. IPL has been FDA-approved for more than 15 years to help treat rosacea and remove superficial skin lesions.


How does IPL help treat dry eye and the root cause of MGD?

The broad-based light released by IPL is mostly within the visible spectrum. This light is filtered to allow only select wavelengths to pass into the tissue.

  1. The IPL light filter for MGD targets oxyhemoglobin, a molecule present within the cells of abnormal vessels. By selectively absorbing the wavelengths of filtered light, abnormal blood vessels near the eyelids may be coagulated. This reduces the amount of leaky inflammatory mediators to the ocular surface and meibomian glands.
  2. The light absorbed generates heat in the dermal layer of the skin, which melts meibum secretions, breaks apart chalazions/styes, and helps open the meibomian glands, making it easier to express stagnant meibum from the glands
  3. IPL decreases the bacterial load on the skin (one of the reasons it helps with acne).
  4. IPL may decrease amount of demodex parasites on the eyelash margin that cause meibomian gland problems

What to expect during an IPL treatment
  • A topical anesthetic may be applied to the skin for added comfort 30 minutes before the procedure. (Optional)
  • Treatment area is cleansed
  • Protective eyewear is placed on the patient
  • A cooling gel, which reduces the sensation of heat from the hand piece, is applied to the treatment area
  • The smooth glass surface of the IPL hand piece is placed directly over the treatment area and light pulses are applied. You may experience a stinging sensation like a rubber band snapping on your skin.

Each IPL treatment takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. If indicated, meibomian gland expression performed after IPL will take approximately 15 minutes.

Results and re-treatments of IPL

Although many people notice improvement in dry eye symptoms after their second treatment, it is recommend to have an initial series of four IPL treatments (performed once every 2-4 weeks to help with long-term success in treating both chronic dry eye disease and MGD). For best results, our doctors recommend combining your IPL treatment with LipiFlow to remove stagnant meibum and restore function to the meibomian glands.

After the initial series of IPL treatments, most people will need only occasional maintenance treatments, depending on the severity of their dry eye condition.

Following the procedure you may experience temporary redness, swelling, tenderness, and/or temporary lightening or darkening of the skin in the treated area, as well as a period of temporary dryness while the glands work to produce healthy oils again.

If you suffer from dry eyes, itchy eyes, or frequent chalazions/styes, call our office at (713) 838-2020 to schedule a consultation today!