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IPL vs. Lipiflow: What’s the Difference?

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Different Dry Eye Remedies For Certain Conditions

Dry eye disease is an uncomfortable and often chronic condition affecting many people in the Pacific Northwest.

Thankfully, there are ways we can slow the progression of the disease and alleviate symptoms of dry eyes.

Using innovative technology like intense pulsed light (IPL) and Lipiflow can help treat dry eye symptoms at their source.

So, what is the difference between the two treatments, and how can we use them to help you find relief from your dry eye symptoms? First, we need to start with what is causing your dry eyes.

What Causes Dry Eyes?

Underneath the surface of your skin, you have several small glands that secrete different oils. In your eyes, the meibomian glands secrete oil into the tears, which helps to reduce the evaporation of our tears, leading to less friction when we blink.

Meibomian glands are so important. In fact, people with meibomian gland dysfunction account for 85% of all dry eye patients. Once the glands experience dysfunction, other dry eye issues may begin to cascade.

The Good News

Thankfully, meibomian gland dysfunction can be treated using innovative techniques. With more than 70% of Americans over the age of 60 exhibiting dry eye symptoms, we’re happy to offer proven solutions to reduce the discomforts associated with the disease. 

At Specialty Eye, we have tripled the amount of healthy, functioning glands of many of our patients using the Lipiflow dry eye treatment.


Lipiflow uses gentle heat that is applied to the internal eyelids and combined with thermal pulsation. This combination gently and safely massages the eyelids, allowing oil to secrete freely from the glands. The oil layer helps prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly and makes your tears move easier across your eyes. 

Lipiflow is a comfortable procedure that only takes around 15 minute to complete. Some patients with more advanced dry eye may need treatment every 6–12 months, but others can go longer in between treatments.

Another issue some patients with dry eye encounter is the growth of irregular blood vessels, which cause inflammation in the eyes. These blood vessels are similar to spider veins, and are considered abnormal. They occur frequently in patients who have meibomian gland dysfunction. Additionally, the weakened vessels often correlate to inflammation that causes tears to become imbalanced.

Woman laying down on a bed receiving ipl treatment for dry eye

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

Intense pulsed light (IPL) can be used to reduce inflammatory feeder blood vessels and decrease the overall inflammation that affects tears. 

OptiLight by Lumenis is the first FDA-approved IPL treatment for dry eyes. Specialty Eye is proud to be among the first eye care practices to offer this innovative treatment in the Pacific Northwest.

IPL applies precise pulses of light around the eye, which penetrate beneath the skin’s surface to target the meibomian glands. This treatment helps to reduce inflammation caused by dry eye disease, improves how long tears stay on your eyes, and increases meibomian gland functionality.

Because of its multi-factorial effect, IPL can treat dry eyes and a range of additional issues like mitigating discomfort and pain caused by inflammation, and reducing demodex (a type of mite that can live in the eyelids and eyelashes) and bacteria.

Which Treatment Do I Need?

Some patients may only experience obstruction in their meibomian glands, and may respond well using either the Lipiflow or IPL treatment option. Others have inflammation around their eyes and in their blood vessels, but the oils in their glands flow well. Some may experience both issues at the same time. 

Because no two people are the same, the type of treatment that works best for you may be different than the one that works best for someone else. Specialty Eye optometrists are skilled at determining the cause of dry eye disease and recommending a treatment that can alleviate your uncomfortable symptoms. Specialty Eye may use a combination of treatments to help you find relief.

Find Relief From Your Symptoms

IPL and Lipiflow are only two of the solutions offered at Specialty Eye.

The team at Specialty Eye prides themselves in searching for your solution and helping you attain clear, comfortable vision. To learn more about what other options are available to help alleviate your chronic or acute dry eyes, please visit our Dry Eye Therapy page

If you are experiencing any discomfort caused by dry eyes, please book an appointment to meet with our optometrists. We will be happy to help you find your remedy.

Written by Dr. David Kading

Dr. Kading is active in various dry eye, contact lens, and contact lens solution research studies, and is a consultant and key opinion leader for several eye care manufacturers. He writes articles and has performed hundreds of lectures nationally and internationally on the topics of keratoconus, irregular corneas, dry eye, anterior segment disease, contact lenses, contact lens solutions, and practice management.

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