Many recent studies have demonstrated the efficacy of intense pulsed light (IPL) for the treatment of meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD); however, its effective treatment targets have not yet been elucidated. This study aimed to investigate the baseline characteristics associated with an improvement in symptoms after IPL treatment; to examine the course of change in inflammatory tear cytokines, meibomian gland function, and tear stability; and to investigate the correlation between cytokines and ocular surface parameters. Thirty participants underwent three sessions of IPL treatment. During each examination, tear film lipid layer interferometry, meibography, tear meniscus height measurement, tear sampling, and slit-lamp examination were performed, and the Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) questionnaire was administered. Meibum quality, meibum expressibility, lid margin abnormality, tear film break-up time (TBUT), ocular surface staining, and the OSDI significantly improved after treatment. Poor meibum expressibility and short TBUT were associated with greater recovery in the OSDI after IPL. Tear levels of IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-17A, and TNF-α decreased after IPL, and IL-6, and TNF-α were correlated with the improvement in meibum expressibility. Therefore, IPL treatment improved meibomian gland function, stabilized the tear film, and decreased ocular surface inflammation. Patients with obstructive MGD and tear instability were more likely to experience an improvement in ocular discomfort after IPL treatment.
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