IPL treatments have been used to remove unwanted hair and treat skin conditions for years, but now this revolutionary light therapy is being used to treat eye conditions: specifically, irritating dry eyes that don’t respond to other treatment. At the Wichita Vision Institute in Wichita, KS, Dr. Reena Patel can help you find relief from the irritation of dry eye syndrome.
Why Dry Eye Is Serious
While “dry eyes” sounds innocuous, your vision is essential to everyday functioning and having dry eye disease can compromise that vision and make daily tasks more difficult. It can also make it impossible for you to keep wearing contact lenses or interfere with your candidacy for LASIK and other eye vision correction treatments.
While everyone can experience dry eyes once in a while, dry eye disease, or dry eye syndrome, is different. It causes constant irritation and inflammation, and if left unchecked can actually scar your eye. No one knows exactly how prevalent the disorder is, but estimates are that 5% to 50% of people suffer from it.
The short-term effects of this condition include discomfort, pain, vision issues, trouble crying, lowered tolerance for reading or other activities that require intensive use of the eyes, and intolerance to contact lenses. If computer use is a large part of your job, you may find your ability to earn a living compromised.
One serious long-term effect of dry eyes is greater susceptibility to eye infections. Without protective tears, your eyes are more likely to get infected, inflamed, and irritated. Over time you may also sustain damage to the surface of your eye. This can lead to ulcers on your cornea and loss of vision.
Over time you may also face serious lifestyle restrictions. People who suffer from untreated dry eye may find themselves unable to drive at night or so sensitive to light that they must curtail normal activities. It can also be difficult to concentrate due to irritation in the eyes, compromising you at work and in your home life.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
For your eyes to stay healthy, and for you to be able to see, you need a consistent layer of liquid over the surface of your eye. Normally our tear ducts produce enough to perform this function. And while we think of tears as primarily just water, they’re actually made up of three key substances, all crucial to the proper functioning of the eye:
- Lipids (an oily compound)
- Mucin (a mucous-like component)
Lipids keep the water from evaporating too quickly, while mucin helps to spread the tears across the whole eye properly. Each of these three components is produced by a separate gland, and a malfunction in any of them can lead to dry eye. Dry eye often manifests when the lipid producing glands become clogged, meaning that tears evaporate too quickly to perform their proper function.
How Do I Know If I Have Dry Eye?
The Risk Factors
If you have two or more of these risk factors, then your scratchy eyes and sensitivity to light are likely not a passing issue. They are probably evidence of dry eye syndrome.
- Intense computer use (we blink less often when looking at screens)
- Contact lens use
- Aging (our risk grows after age 50)
- Dry air (either arid outdoor environments or dry indoor air)
- Frequent flying (because of the dry air)
- Certain health conditions, particularly systemic diseases
- Being female (females are more likely to suffer than males)
- Medications (particularly antihistamines, blood pressure medication, and antidepressants)
Dry eye presents with an array of symptoms. If you experience two or more of these, or any single symptom that doesn’t resolve quickly on its own, you may have dry eye syndrome:
- Heavy eyes
- A dry sensation
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- A constant feeling of “grit” in the eyes
- Constant tearing without relief
- Difficulty crying
- Sensitivity to light
How Can IPL Treatment Help?
IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light, uses pulses of light to release the hardened oils that can interfere with the proper functioning of your lipid production. IPL can also reduce inflammation in the eyelids. Once eye inflammation goes down and the glands start working properly, your dry eye issues will resolve. After a few treatments, most people only need an occasional maintenance treatment to get permanent relief.
What Should I Expect?
Talk to the Doctor
Your first step will be to talk with board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Reena Patel about your symptoms and to learn if IPL treatment is the right choice for you. Dr. Patel has years of experience in vision correction and eye care and can help you understand the underlying condition causing your issues.
Your eyes will first be protected to ensure there’s no danger to your sight. The treatment itself uses a small handheld device to deliver precisely targeted light pulses to the skin under your eyes, which reduces inflammation and breaks up hardened lipids that are blocking your glands.
There may be a warm sensation as the light is applied, but this is not uncomfortable or painful. The whole session takes approximately 15 minutes. Once over, Dr. Patel may perform a gland expressing, also painless, to get the lipids flowing.
Most people are able to continue their normal activities on the same day as treatment, though you may experience a bit of redness that will pass in a few hours. It’s best to avoid sunlight for a few days after your treatment.
Most cases of dry eye will require a few treatments, so you may come in as many as five times, usually every three or four weeks. Depending on how severe your condition is or the underlying cause, you may want to return every six to 12 months for a maintenance IPL treatment.
What Are the Benefits of IPL?
Unlike some other treatments, this is a fast, “lunch-time” treatment that doesn’t require significant preparation or a long downtime afterward for recovery.
Constantly putting in eyedrops eats up your time and just isn’t comfortable. If you have to constantly use eye drops at work, you know how messy it can be, especially when you’re in a hurry. Plugs, which are sometimes used to force tears to stay on the eye, are not comfortable and can easily move around, which causes more discomfort and forces you back to the ophthalmologist to have the issue corrected.
IPL treatment only takes a few minutes and is relatively painless, especially in comparison to other treatments.
Instead of always worrying about where your eye drops are (and if you’ll be able to find the right brand if you go on vacation and forget your bottle), you can end your dependency on drops in just a few short sessions and just get on with life.
Many other treatments for dry eye, including drops and plugs, merely treat the symptoms. They don’t address the underlying cause, meaning you never experience genuine relief. IPL therapy actually fixes the problem that’s causing your dry eye and gives you back clear, comfortable sight.
This is an FDA-approved treatment that has benefited many people and comes with no serious risk of any side effects. Once you’re done, you can get rid of your topical and systemic medications.
Am I a Candidate?
Most healthy adults are eligible for this treatment. In particular, you are a good candidate if you can say “yes” to all or most of the following:
- Do you regularly use artificial tears or lubrication drops?
- Do your contact lenses bother you regularly?
- Do you have blurry vision that changes when you blink?
- Do you often have a gritty or scratchy feeling in your eyes?
- Have other dry eye treatments failed to work for you?
Only you and an ophthalmologist together can decide for sure if IPL treatment is the right move for you, but this treatment works effectively on adults of all ages, races, and genders. It provides a welcome solution to those who are allergic to drops or medications or who find that other solutions simply aren’t working for them.
Can I Do Anything at Home for My Dry Eyes?
There are other treatments available, though none can offer all the benefits of IPL. If you’re interested in all treatment options available or aren’t sure which is right for you, talk to Dr. Patel at the Wichita Vision Institute to find out more.
Meanwhile, consider these home remedies that can bring temporary relief. These may work for some people, and if your eyes have just started bothering you, it may be a temporary problem that these remedies will fix. Even if they are not a permanent solution, they can provide temporary relief until you have your treatment.
Wet a washcloth with warm water and place it over your eyes for a minute. While doing so, press the edge of your eyelid very gently to express the oil, which should soften in the warmth.
Wash Your Eyes
If you see crusting on your lashes, wash your eyes regularly, and very gently, with warm water and baby shampoo or a mild, natural soap.
Make an Effort to Blink More
If you work all day at the computer, try consciously to blink more. The 20/20 rule is also effective: close your eyes for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
Getting enough water is essential for all bodily functions, and if you’re perpetually dehydrated, this could affect your eyes.
Use Artificial Tears
These keep the surface of your eye moist, but if you find yourself relying on these for the long-term, it’s time to talk to the ophthalmologist about a more effective solution.
Eat More Fish
The natural oils in fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, and trout contain essential Omega-3 fatty acids. These are good for you in many ways, not just to improve eye health, so even if you don’t see a resolution to your dry eyes, you will always benefit from eating plenty of oily fish.
Avoid Overly Dry Air
If outside, use wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and dry air. At home, don’t sit right in front of the air-conditioning vent or fan. If your heating dries out the house during the winter months, add a humidifier to your bedroom or living room.
Get Started Fixing Your Dry Eyes
Dry eyes can make life more difficult and uncomfortable, interfere with what you want to do, and even pose a serious risk of sight damage down the line if left untreated. You don’t have to live with constant, messy drops, medications that cause unwanted side effects, or plugs that come out of place.
Contact the Wichita Vision Institute in Wichita, KS today and learn how Dr. Patel can help you end your dry eye syndrome and get back your quality of life.