Composed of an aqueous component, a mucous component and a fat component, the human tear film is essential for the health and proper functioning of the eye. Leaning against the cornea of the eye is the mucous component which, with the tails of its own molecules, attaches itself to the corneal epithelium, followed by the aqueous component and finally the fatty component which is essential to avoid an excessive evaporation of the aqueous component.
In the case of reduced production of tears (hypolacrymia) or insufficient production of fat (disalacrymia), the eye experiences the so-called dry eye syndrome.
The Dysfunction of the Meibomian Glands
Both hypolacrymia and dyslacrymia are caused by obstruction or malfunction of the meibomian glands which, positioned in the eyelids, are responsible for the production of the lipid layer of tears.
The glands are named after Heinrich Meibom, the German doctor who first described them in 1666.
There are 25 to 40 meibomian glands in the upper eyelid and 20 to 30 in the lower eyelid. Their function is to secrete oils which, spreading over the surface of the eye, help to prevent tears from evaporating too quickly.
The dysfunction of the meibomian glands (Meibomian Gland Dysfunction or MGD) consists of a block or some other anomaly of the glands which, by not secreting enough oil in tears, give rise to dry eye syndrome.
To date, MGD has been treated with various methods such as installation of artificial tears, application of hot compresses on the eyelids, manual cleaning of the glands or eyelid massage. The objective of these treatments is to dissolve the oily component which, when thickened, clogs the gland opening holes.
A second treatment strategy is pharmacological and involves the intake of omega-3 capsules, antibiotics and topical steroids and oral tetracyclines.
However, all these methods have been shown to provide only temporary relief from symptoms and sometimes may cause unwanted side effects.
The absence of an effective and safe treatment has led to the need to test other therapeutic solutions. Today, one valid therapeutic solution is therapy with the Intense Regulated Pulsed Light (IRPL).
How the Intense Regulated Pulsed Light (IRPL) Treatment Works
The new IRPL treatment acts on the causal and no longer symptomatic part of the dry eye.
It works by conveying high-powered light pulses on the periorbital zones and on the cheekbones which is completely harmless to the eye. However, it is able to generate heat and heats the treated part.
The thermal “shock” reactivates the function of the meibomian glands, thus resuming the production of the fat component essential for the correct preservation of the tear film.
It has in fact been verified by various neurological studies that the emission leads to a stimulation of neurotransmitters. These urge the meibomian glands to produce, by contracting, a greater secretion; thus increases the natural lipid flow which reduces the evaporation of tears.
How to Perform the Intense Regulated Pulsed Light (IRPL) Treatment
The treatment is completely painless and free of contraindications or risks for the eyeball.
The patient is made to lie down. A cold gel is applied in the area around the eyes that are covered by plastic protective glasses. Any moles or skin spots are covered with a plaster and treatment is carried out for a total time of a few seconds per eye.
Immediately after the session, the patient can resume the usual activities having only the foresight to avoid sun exposure in the first 24/36 hours following the pulsed light treatment.
Therapy should be repeated after 14 days, 45 days and, if necessary, 75 days after the first session.
The 85% percent of patients treated with the innovative Intense Regulated Pulsed Light therapy declared a great benefit and the definitive resolution of the annoying and often debilitating problem of dry eye.