What is LipiFlow®?
LipiFlow® thermal pulsation treatment is a new advanced form of therapy for the relief of dry eye. It was designed to treat evaporative dry eye, which is the most common form of the condition. Evaporative dry eye develops when there are blockages in the meibomian glands of the eyelids, which are responsible for the production of the lipids that help protect the eye. When production of the lipid layer decreases, the eyes will not be lubricated sufficiently and tears evaporate too rapidly to benefit the eye. LipiFlow® is the only treatment that focuses on the cause of dry eye and provides sustained relief by improving the function of the eyelid glands.
There are several advantages to treating meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) with LipiFlow®. First and foremost, patients appreciate that this modality gets to the core issue, the lack of integrity in their tear film. Because LipiFlow unblocks obstructed glands, the results from treatment are long-lasting.
Additional benefits include:
- LipiFlow® has a proven track record. In the LipiFlow® clinical trial, 76% of patients who underwent treatment reported a noticeable improvement in eye lubrication within 2 weeks. At 4 weeks, 79% of patients.
- Treatment is comfortable and easy. The process of unblocking meibomian glands using thermal pulses takes less than 15 minutes. Both eyes can be treated simultaneously on the day of your consultation.
- LipiFlow® is backed by experience. The developer of this device, TearScience, has been researching dry eye disease for more than 25 years. Their scientists understand how dry eye occurs, how it can affect the overall quality of life, and how to support optimal ocular function.
Candidates for LipiFlow® Treatment
Patients who have been diagnosed with evaporative dry eye or meibomian gland dysfunction are typically considered good candidates for treatment. Many dry eye patients are initially encouraged to try other techniques including over-the-counter or prescription medications or home remedies such as warm compresses and blinking exercises, but they do not provide long-term relief and are not always effective.
Those individuals who are still experiencing pain and other symptoms may benefit from treatment with LipiFlow® instead. Certain patients with an eye infection, inflammation or irregularities of the eyelid or eye surface generally will not be considered good candidates for a LipiFlow® procedure. Those who have undergone a recent eye surgery, or suffered from an eye injury or herpes outbreak within three months may need to be evaluated at a later point in order to be considered for this treatment.
The LipiFlow® Treatment
The LipiFlow® thermal pulsation system is an effective method for relieving meibomian gland blockages. The problem usually resolves in a single session, so most patients do not require repeat treatments.
However, in certain more severe cases, another LipiFlow® procedure may be necessary as symptoms can eventually return. LipiFlow® works by applying a combination of directed heat and pulses of pressure to the affected area.
This targets the problem spot within the meibomian gland, enabling the blockage to clear. Once the blocked gland has been re-opened, the flow of lubricating tear film should begin to alleviate dry eye symptoms.
A disposable eyepiece is placed beneath the patient’s lower and upper eyelids and contoured to ensure that it does not come into contact with the cornea. The patient is placed in a reclined position, and the system applies the pulses of pressure and heat directly to the affected glands. The treatment is complete in 12 minutes. The procedure is associated with little to no discomfort, although some patients report feeling some pressure at the treatment site.
What to expect after treatment?
The beneficial effects of LipiFlow® begin to appear over time. Sometimes patients notice an improvement the same day their treatment is performed. However, we advise patients to expect symptoms to improve gradually starting about two weeks after treatment. Also, in severe cases of MGD, subsequent treatment may be necessary to achieve optimal results. According to patient surveys, dry eye symptoms are significantly improved by 6 to 8 weeks after LipiFlow® treatment. In studies, 84% of patients experienced notable improvement in gland secretions within the first month after treatment.
How many LipiFlow® sessions will I need?
Dr. Keamy conducts a thorough consultation and examination before recommending LipiFlow® for symptoms of dry eye. During this visit, she will do her best to estimate the number of treatments that may be needed to achieve maximum results. In many cases, one treatment is sufficient to unblock glands for 1 year or more. Because MGD is a chronic condition, treatment may need to be repeated periodically.
Is LipiFlow® safe?
LipiFlow® underwent years of research and clinical testing prior to receiving FDA approval in 2011. The nonsurgical, noninvasive procedure has been widely performed for the past 8-plus years with outstanding results. Like most procedures, there are certain limitations to LipiFlow® treatment that may exclude some patients from this modality. Dr. Keamy performs a comprehensive exam to confirm the absence of eye infection, recent eye injury or surgery, and ocular surface irregularities before advising LipiFlow.