What is the iLux® Treatment System?
The Alcon iLux® Treatment System is a device used to treat Meibomian Gland Dysfunction. It is a multi-step process of heating and pressure meant to promote the production and flow of oils from the glands to the eyes, forming the tear film layer. Since these oils are essential to keeping tears from evaporating, treating these glands is an effective way of treating symptoms of dry eyes.
What are the Meibomian Glands?
The meibomian glands are glands that produce an essential oil known as meibum. They line up the inside of the upper and lower eyelids, and the oil is pushed out through openings that line the edges of the eyelids, behind the eyelashes. When those oils are produced, they are spread over the eyes as you blink, covering the eye in a layer of meibum. These oils are typically clear and help keep your eye's natural tears from evaporating, and both together with the mucus layer, form the eye's tear film layer. This tear layer not only keeps your eyes from drying out, but help protect you from irritants and fine debris, such as dust and other particles.
What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
As the name implies, Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, or MGD, describes when the meibomian glands do not produce the oils necessary to form a proper tear film layer. This can happen in a number of ways, the most common being obstructive MGD. When the meibomian glands are not properly maintained, the oils begin to solidify and clog up the gland openings lining the edges of the eyelids, which stops the flow of new oils. Since there aren't any new oils being produced, the tear film layer loses its quality and your tears evaporate quickly, causing your eyes to dry out quickly. When left untreated, the glands themselves begin to waste away, known as gland atrophy, and the glands become twisted, shortened, and in more severe cases, are almost completely gone. This means that your ability to produce meibum is significantly impaired, if not stopped completely, and dry eye becomes a permanent fixture of your eye ecology.
MGD is considered the leading cause of dry eye, with up to 86% of patients who suffer from dry eye also reporting clinical signs of MGD. If you have dry eye, there's a very good chance that the cause is MGD.
How does the iLux® Treatment System Work?
Like described, it is a multi-step procedure to allow the flow of oils from the meibomian glands. Since the glands begin to waste away when they are clogged, unclogging them is the first step to treat MGD.
The iLux® device is applied to the eyelids from the inside of your eyelids, sliding in after applying a numbing drop. Once the iLux® is in position, we begin applying heat treatment to the glands. The heat is harmless, though noticeably arm, and this heats up the meibum within the clogged glands, melting them and allowing them to flow through the openings at the lid margins. By melting the meibum, we essentially reset the state of the meibomian glands to a point where they can keep producing oils in a natural manner, without them being clogged up. After around a minute of heat exposure, we use the iLux® to slowly and painlessly encourage the newly melted oils out of the glands, a process known as expressing the glands. Once the glands are fully expressed, the process is repeated for different sections of the eyelid, before moving on to the other eyelids.
Once completed, the effects of the treatment can last up to two years, with the glands having regained the ability to allow oil flow to the tear film layer. This is not all, however, as much like plumbing, we take steps afterwards to prevent the glands from clogging back up. This includes a regular routine of warm compresses, supplemented with artificial tears to maintain moisture of the eyes, along with building good habits to promote a healthy tear film layer.
With the iLux® Treatment System and conscientious maintenance, gland atrophy is halted, and your dry eye symptoms become easier to manage.