When the glands in your eyelids that produce oil aren’t doing their job, you may have a common dry eye condition known as meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).
This causes your film of tears to evaporate, which can lead to hyperosmolarity—when the salt content of your tears damages the surface of the eye. This, in turn, can lead to an endless cycle of inflammation and discomfort. Indeed, MGD accounts for the vast majority of people who suffer from dry eye syndrome.
So what can be done about it?
Lumenis laser treatment is an advanced dry eye treatment that treats the meibomian glands, allowing them to heal and reduce symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
Read on for Dr. Lauren Zimski's thoughts on Lumenis treatment and to learn how she’s been helping Denver-area dry eye sufferers. We want you to be knowledgeable enough to decide for yourself whether or not the treatment is right for you.
What is Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL)
Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) is an FDA-approved, in-office treatment that uses wavelengths of light to reduce inflammation around the eyes. IPL treatments have been shown to improve the function of the eyelids’ meibomian glands, increasing production of eye-lubricating natural oils, reducing demodex mites and reducing dryness.
During treatment, your doctor can select special filters and choose how much or what type of energy is applied to the tissue depending on what it is they're treating.
IPL has been used since the mid-1990s for dermatological conditions like acne, unwanted hair, rosacea and spider veins (telangiectasia). Indeed, dry eye patients often have abnormal blood vessels growing along the eyelid margins where inflammation causes redness, burning and itching (ocular rosacea). Rosacea is a common skin condition that affects the cheeks and nose but can also cause severe eye issues that are often not diagnosed. The same blood vessels that are seen on the face occur on the lid margins causing redness and irritation. This often leads to meibomian gland dysfunction. IPL addresses the vascular and inflammatory components of ocular rosacea and is very effective at improving symptoms of redness, irritation and light sensitivity.
By the early 2000s, doctors using IPL to treat patients with rosacea started to notice that some of them were showing an improvement in their dry eye symptoms. Subsequent research gave us insight into how IPL affects the eyelids and helps with MGD and dry eye symptoms in general.
What Is Lumenis Laser Treatment?
Lumenis, the pioneer of intense pulsed light treatment, offers the only FDA-approved IPL treatment for dry eye disease due to MGD. The Lumenis OptiLIGHT is a dry eye medical device that offers comfortable, effective therapy to reduce inflammation and improve meibomian gland function.
What are the risks of IPL treatment?
"IPL is overall very safe," explains Dr. Lauren Zimski. "The most important part of doing IPL on the eyelids is making sure the eyes are well protected. This is done by placing metal shields over the eyes and making sure they are properly sized.
"There is a risk of burns with IPL and for this reason, IPL cannot be used on darker skin types. If done by someone with experience, this risk is very low."
How Does Lumenis Laser Treatment Work?
IPL works through several different mechanisms, particularly photocoagulation, in which abnormal blood vessels on the eyelid are destroyed. This accomplishes two
things: 1. It removes unattractive blood vessels and 2. It stops pro-inflammatory cells from leaching out of those blood vessels into the eyelid and into the meibomian glands. This allows your meibomian glands to start healing and produce better quality oils.
Because Lumenis treatment uses a high amount of energy, it also heats up the skin and the meibomian glands, dislodging solidified oils and allowing them to express. The glands can once again produce healthy oils needed for comfort and vision.
This light energy can also kill microorganisms on the eyelids —organisms that cause things like blepharitis (another condition that causes inflammation in the eyelids and leads to dry eye syndrome).
What Should You Expect During Treatment?
Before you can consider IPL treatment, you need a full dry eye evaluation so your doctor can accurately diagnose dry eye disease caused by some form of meibomian gland dysfunction.
If IPL treatment is recommended, there are normally four sessions, spaced about two to four weeks apart. Maintenance treatments may be needed once a year or as recommended by your doctor.
For each IPL treatment, your doctor will have you thoroughly clean your face. No eye makeup is allowed, for example.
The doctor will place numbing drops into your eyes and metal eyeshield will be placed over your eyes to protect them.
Next, your doctor applies a cooling gel (like what is used in ultrasounds) and the procedure can begin.
During treatment, the intense light will create discomfort or stinging around the eyes. In fact, if it doesn’t hurt at least a little bit you may not be getting an effective treatment!
After treatment, some patients experience blurry vision. This indicates that your meibomian glands are expressing more oil. Don’t be concerned; you should be able to return to your everyday activities before long.
Multiple sessions are typically required.
"The FDA approval was for four sessions, but this varies depending on severity," explains Dr. Zimski. "Each session typically takes about 10 minutes for the IPL treatment, and is then followed by an in office heat mask and expression. The complete treatment takes about 30 minutes."
What Results Can You Expect?
In spite of the cost and discomfort, patients usually have fewer dry eye symptoms after the first treatment.
Contact lenses become more comfortable. And, as an added bonus, your skin and complexion around your eyes will often improve—especially if you already have dermatological issues like acne and rosacea.
Remember: while some patients notice immediate changes in their dry eye symptoms after the treatment, it typically takes around four treatments to see a drastic change.
"IPL combined with heated expression is the most effective treatment for MGD," says Dr. Zimski. "It decreases inflammation, opens clogged glands and improves tear film stability. The majority of patients that undergo IPL treatment report decreased burning, redness and light sensitivity. These benefits are long-lasting as compared to many other treatments. Many of the prescription eye drops used to treat dry eye are very expensive even with insurance so IPL can often be a more cost effective treatment option."
What Is the Cost For the Treatment?
The cost of Lumenis laser treatment varies depending on the practitioner. Insurance does not cover Lumenis treatment, so the expense is out-of-pocket. Most IPL practitioners charge between $400 and $800 for a single session.
It is recommended to have at least four treatments for specifically treating dry eye. Our office typically charges $1,600 for four sessions, and a single meibomian gland probing procedure (clearing internally blocked meibomian glands) is $800.
Is Lumenis Laser Treatment Best For Me?
If you have a history of evaporative dry eye from meibomian gland dysfunction and are interested in Lumenis laser treatment, Dr. Lauren Zimski is a trusted doctor you can depend on. Her ophthalmology patients receive excellent dry eye syndrome treatment, comprehensive eye exams, ocular surface disease management, and customized dry eye solutions and tips.
Expressing the meibomian gland oils and treating some of the root causes of inflammation has given relief to many of our dry eye patients in the Denver area.
We recommend scheduling a dry eye consultation with Dr. Zimski, where she will evaluate which treatment options are right for your unique symptoms.
Dr Zimski would love to work with you! You can schedule your first appointment online, or contact us with any questions using our online form. Need more ways to get in touch? Try calling 303-863-1231.