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IPL vs LipiFlow: What’s the Difference?

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A close up of a lined piece of paper with optometric equipment laying on top of it and the term diagnosis in the middle with the words dry eyes handwritten underneath.

Dry eye can make everyday tasks feel impossible. Reading, working, and even driving can become strenuous on your eyes and comfort.

Fortunately, there are many different treatments available to help manage dry eye symptoms. IPL (intense pulsed light therapy) and LipiFlow are just 2 of the treatments we offer at See & Be Seen Eyecare. Some of the latest treatments for dry eye are offered at our clinic.

But how are these treatments different and which treatment is right for your eyes? We’re here to help you figure it out. 

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye is a chronic condition where there are not enough tears to sufficiently lubricate and nourish the eye. The glands involved in tear production either fail to produce enough tears or produce tears of poor quality.

The tear film has three layers; aqueous fluid, mucus, and fatty oils. The aqueous fluid (water) layer hydrates the eyes. The mucus layer spreads the tears evenly across the eye’s surface. The oil layer prevents the water layer from evaporating too quickly. 

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) affects 85% of all dry eye patients. MGD occurs when the meibomian glands become clogged, reducing the amount of oil in your tears. MGD can lead to dry eye and treatments like IPL and LipiFlow are designed to treat MGD.

Signs and symptoms, which usually affect both eyes, may include:

  • Dryness
  • Burning and irritation 
  • Itchiness
  • Blurred vision 
  • Redness 
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Sandy/gritty feeling 
  • Foreign body sensation 
  • Tiredness 
  • Sudden excess of tears 
  • Stringy discharge 
A person placing protective eyewear over a patient's eyes before starting an IPL treatment.

What Is IPL?

Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) is an in-office treatment for dry eye. Using gentle pulses of light (wavelengths), your optometrist can reduce inflammation around the eyes and stimulate oil production of the meibomian glands.

During the procedure, the heat from the light warms and liquefies the oil your body uses to create tear film. IPL therapy can help this oil to move more freely and reduce blockages that cause dry eye symptoms.

Studies have shown that IPL can improve tear breakup time in 87% of patients. IPL is a safe, quick procedure that can be used on any skin type. 


  • Long-lasting results
  • Patients rarely report discomfort
  • Ocular + aesthetic benefits


  • Requires up to 4 treatments
  • Not suitable for all skin types

What Is LipiFlow?

LipiFlow is a dry eye treatment designed to target meibomian gland dysfunction. Also called thermal pulsation, LipiFlow works by using heat and massage to warm and express the meibomian glands to stimulate oil production.

LipiFlow uses 2 main components:

  • A small, contact lens-like eye cover to warm the eyelids
  • A shield component that sits over the eyes to express the glands

With this treatment, you’ll need a mild anesthetic (medicated eye drops) to help you feel more comfortable. The treatment is safe and takes about 12 minutes


  • Automatic system
  • Long-lasting results
  • Only need 1 treatment/year
  • Safe for all skin types


  • Only suitable for specific patients
  • Repeat treatments approximately 1/year

IPL vs. LipiFlow: Which is Right for Me?

Both IPL and LipiFlow have their merits. The right treatment for you depends on a number of factors, such as your symptoms and medical history. Your optometrist can consult on which is best for your eyes. IPL is generally more suitable for inflammatory dry eye, whereas, LipiFlow is better suited for obstructive meibomian gland dysfunction. 

Dry eye disease can cause many irritating symptoms, but your optometrist can help you find relief. Whether treatment happens with IPL or another method, you don’t need to live with dry eye disease. 

Next Steps

At See & Be Seen Eyecare, we offer IPL, LipiFlow, Radio Frequency and other dry eye treatments to give you a variety of options when it comes to your vision and ocular comfort.

You can view our home remedies for dry eye here, as well! Book a consultation with us today and find dry eye relief!

Written by Dr. Ritesh Patel

Some people grow up wanting to be a famous athlete, an astronaut, or even the Prime Minister of Canada. Dr. Patel’s childhood ambition was to be an Optometrist. His dream leads him to live and practice all over the world, but his heart has always been in Toronto.

Dr. Patel was born in Toronto and grew up in the Markham area. After completing his Bachelor of Science in 2003 from the University of Waterloo, he went on to study at the prestigious New England College of Optometry in Boston, MA.

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