IPL Dry Eye Treatment Side Effects

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment for dry eye can be done by your Ophthlamologist and may improve your dry eye. The light therapy from IPL helps to improve the health of your eyelid margins and the function of your meibomian glands. These glands are the oil-producing glands that contribute to a layer of your tear film. This oil layer prevents the evaporation of your tears and thus improves your dry eye. A condition called blepharitis is the result of meibomian gland dysfunction and these patients can have both dry eye and styes.

How Does IPL Work For Dry Eyes?

Intense Pulsed Light can help many people with dry eye disease. The light acts like a warm compress. The IPL therapy session will help to liquify oily secretions from your meibomian glands. When these glands become unclogged, they function better and improve dry eye. During a session of IPL, the light will be applied to the eyelid skin. In addition to melting the oil and allowing the glands to unclog, there is also a theory that the light reduces inflammatory mediators and bacterial overgrowth.

IPL Dry Eye Treatment Side Effects And Risks

IPL is not a brand new technology. It has been around for several years and has been used by Dermatologists to treat rosacea. The dry eye protocol for using this laser was developed in the early 2000s and has been gaining popularity ever since. While it is usually well tolerated, there are some side effects that patients should be aware of when it comes to IPL.

In a study on 91 patients with dry eye symptoms published by Toyos, et al, it was found that 93% of patients had improvement in dry eye symptoms after treatment with Intense Pulsed Light. Thirteen percent of all patients reported adverse events. These adverse events were mainly localized redness and swelling. In this study, there were no other significant adverse events.

There is also a small risk of depigmentation with IPL in patients with Fitzgerald skin type four or below. This is because darker skin has a higher risk of depigmentation from IPL.

The studies were done on patients 22 years or older, and thus it is not recommended for patients who are younger than this.

The complete list of potential side effects from IPL include pain or discomfort, damage to natural skin texture, change of pigmentation in the skin, scarring of the skin, excessive edema, fragile skin, bruising, burning of the skin, pruritus and xerosis. These are not common, but they are in the list of possible side effects. Talk to your ophthalmologist before your treatment if you have any concerns.

IPL Benefits For Dry Eye

One of the biggest benefits is that with IPL, the actual function of your eyelids is being improved. This could mean having to take fewer artificial tears or even prescription medication for your dry eye disease over time. It can also cosmetically improve the appearance of your eyelids especially if you have puffy eyelids from clogged eyelids glands. Most ophthalmologists will recommend that you continue your normal dry eye regimen as well including artificial tears and warm compresses to ensure that your glands stay open and your eyes remain hydrated.

How Many IPL Sessions Do I Need For Dry Eye Treatment?

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Most ophthalmologists recommend patients have 5 treatments. Some may do as few as 4 sessions, and others may recommend 6 sessions. These treatments are usually scheduled about one month apart. Patients may have some mild redness in the skin after a treatment session, but this should go away in a few hours.

IPL Dry Eye Treatment Side Effects: Take Home Points

The major side effects of IPL treatment for dry eye disease are local changes in the skin and surrounding tissue.


Suwal A, Hao JL, Zhou DD, Liu XF, Suwal R, Lu CW. Use of Intense Pulsed Light to Mitigate Meibomian Gland Dysfunction for Dry Eye Disease. Int J Med Sci. 2020 Jun 1;17(10):1385-1392. doi: 10.7150/ijms.44288. PMID: 32624695; PMCID: PMC7330664.


O’Neil EC, Henderson M, Massaro-Giordano M, Bunya VY. Advances in dry eye disease treatment. Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2019 May;30(3):166-178. doi: 10.1097/ICU.0000000000000569. PMID: 30883442; PMCID: PMC6986373.


Toyos R, McGill W, Briscoe D. Intense pulsed light treatment for dry eye disease due to meibomian gland dysfunction; a 3-year retrospective study. Photomed Laser Surg. 2015 Jan;33(1):41-6. doi: 10.1089/pho.2014.3819. PMID: 25594770; PMCID: PMC4298157.


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