Intense Pulse Light, or IPL, is a medical therapy for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), the most common cause of dry eye. IPL has been used in dermatology for over two decades and is a safe and effective treatment for many skin conditions, including Rosacea.
IPL uses a xenon flash lamp to produce light in the 500 to 1000 nanometre wavelength range that can be pulsed and filtered to allow specific wavelengths of energy to be released. This focussed light can be applied to the lower eyelids and face to improve the function of the glands and to reduce the signs and symptoms of MGD.
IPL works by physically heating the secretions in the Meibomian glands to 43 degrees Celsius, allowing higher quality and quantity of expressions. It also has been shown to kill the Demodex mite, which is highly associated with MGD. Several other mechanisms have been postulated, such as the cauterisation of the micro-vasculature around the Meibomian glands, and inhibiting the action of certain molecules called chromophores.
Patients with MGD may need 6 treatments, each one month apart. The effect of the treatment is cumulative, meaning that each treatment adds to the previous treatments. Maintenance treatments may be needed at 6 to 12 month intervals thereafter. After each treatment, a clinician will manually express the Meibomian glands.
It is important to note that there is no cure for MGD, which is a form of blepharitis, but the aim of the IPL treatment is to significantly reduce the patient’s symptoms and their reliance on other forms of at home dry eye therapy.