LipiFlow is an amazing device that treats evaporative dry eye, the most common type. This happens when the upper and lower eyelid glands become blocked causing your tears to evaporate too much. The medical name for these are the “meibomian glands.” When they become blocked you have “meibomian gland dysfunction” (or MGD). While there’s no cure for dry eyes, LipiFlow is designed to minimize or relieve MGD symptoms for an extended period.

I now know what LipiFlow is like because I had it done. The following is my account from what I observed, felt, and learned, more in plain-speak than fancy medical-speak.

LipiView-Scan-1Diagnosis
First, I had images taken of my glands using LipiView (shown right), Lipiflow’s diagnostic cousin. I was taken into a dim exam room, seated in front of a large monitor, and told this would measure the thickness of my lipid layer. It’s the layer that keeps your tears from evaporating, one of the three layers that make up your tear film. Like a regular eye exam, I rested my chin and forehead in front of what looked like a camera lens. The nurse then placed the tip of a small device not much larger than an ink pen just under my upper and lower eyelids (totally was painless, aside from a small “tug”), pushed some buttons, and x-ray-like images popped on the screen showing which glands were blocked. This is to not only guide my treatment, but to ensure I’ll actually benefit from it. My diagnosis: moderate with some potential that it could become worse. I have allergies and spend a lot of time in front of a computer, which is common.

The LipiFlow Treatment
I was seated in a recliner like most of us have in our dens (only nicer) to make sure I would be calm, comfortable and still. Once I was comfy enough, the nurse added a drop of mild anesthesia in each eye. Next, she gently placed an eyepiece just under the upper and lower eyelids of each eye connected to the LipiFlow activator. The idea of this made me a bit uneasy, but there was no discomfort at all (like little blankets over my eyes). The nurse said the eyepieces are curved to avoid touching my cornea. She calmly explained that heat and pressure would be gradually applied, and the whole thing takes about 12 minutes.

She switched on the activator and told me to let her know if I felt any discomfort.

I immediately felt a mild pulsation and warmth. This was slowly increased. I have to admit it felt weird, but not uncomfortable. It was almost like an eye massage (I actually dozed off a couple of times). She then told me she was increasing pulsation and heat to the safest maximum allowed (about 106ºF). I could now feel heat and pressure but nothing uncomfortable. I was assured this temperature is safe for my eyes (my cornea in particular). She said we’d be done in about 3 minutes.

Cool down was very quick once the activator was off. The nurse said she’d leave the eyepieces on for about one minute. I learned you can take them out sooner, but Dr. Parmer prefers to allow the temperature to further cool closer to normal. When she removed the eyepieces my eyes felt normal, and my eyesight was normal. Oddly, my eyes felt refreshed.

The procedure seemed much quicker than 12 minutes. Perhaps my dozing off had something to do with it.

LipiFlow is designed to minimize symptoms for up to 24 months, the average being approximately 18 months. It was a fascinating experience and I’m already noticing a difference. I’m looking forward to seeing how things go over the next few months.