LipiFlow Treatment, Costs, Reviews, Side Effects, & Insurance Coverage
What is LipiFlow? LipiFlow Treatment Procedure Overview
The LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System is a medical device proven to improve the function of the meibomian glands in those who suffer from meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). The device consists of a computer console and single-use activators that are used directly on the eyelids.
When you're at your eye doctor's office, they may offer you this procedure if you have dry eyes and MGD. During the actual procedure, an anesthetic drop will be instilled in your eyes. The single-use activators are then placed on your eyelids, one side between your eyelids and your eyeball and the other side on the top of your lids (this ensures heating from both sides of the eyelid).
The activators have a corneal protector that vaults over the front of the eye, so it is completely protected from heat and pressure. The device is turned on and delivers heat and pulsation to the eyelids for approximately 12 minutes.
This system is great because not only is it heated (to 42.5 degrees Celsius, to be exact), but it also pulses in a peristaltic motion that works oil from the beginning of the glands to the terminal ends. Obstructed oil in the meibomian glands is able to be liquified and released onto the eyes, therefore working to prevent dry eyes.
Is LipiFlow Worth It? LipiFlow Cost and Insurance Coverage
LipiFlow is, unfortunately, not covered by insurance and can be quite pricey. The cost of the computer system for your doctor's office is around $100,000 and offices normally charge between $1000-1500 for each procedure.
The reason for the expense is because the single-use activators used on your eyelids are incredibly expensive for your eye doctor to purchase. However, many offices will offer payment plans that make this procedure a bit more accessible to those who need it.
We would love to see the cost of this procedure decrease in the coming years because we know it can be so helpful for those with MGD. Similar to most things, we believe the cost will eventually come down, although it is not likely to ever be covered by insurance.
Is the procedure worth it?
We believe it absolutely is, especially for those with diagnosed MGD with meibomian gland atrophy. Small studies are beginning to show that LipiFlow may be able to reverse meibomian gland atrophy in those who have the procedure performed regularly.
Some patients will be able to go up to two years without needing another LipiFlow treatment (because their symptoms have improved), but many will need to be retreated every six to 12 months for lasting benefits.
Does LipiFlow Work? LipiFlow Reviews
The safety and long-term effectiveness of LipiFlow has been proven in quite a few peer reviewed studies. They have shown that, after one treatment, over 85% of people saw sustained relief of their symptomsand improved meibomian gland secretions for up to 12 months, when compared to the usual warm compresses and eyelid hygiene used twice per day.
These studies are promising, but it does not mean that LipiFlow is the answer for everyone with dry eye disease. Many of those that have the procedure done find little relief, but this may be due to a few factors.
First of all, MGD may not be the main cause of their dry eyes. Yes, everyone has a little bit of MGD, but most dry eye is mixed. But if the reason for your dry eyes is hormonal or an issue with your lacrimal gland output, LipiFlow may give you minimal relief.
Another reason may be that you need more than one treatment. As stated earlier, there are many people who find relief after one treatment, yet there are quite a few patients who will need more treatments and will need ongoing treatments with LipiFlow to notice results. Everyone is different, and it comes down to finding out what works for you.
LipiFlow Side Effects
Of course, we do need to discuss a few side effects of the LipiFlow procedure. Because the single-use activators are heating up and pulsing that stagnant oil out of your eyelids and onto your eyes, there is bound to be some inflammation afterward.
Your eyes may become red and inflamed following the procedure, which is quite common. It is also common to experience burning, stinging, tearing, itching, and discharge. You may be given a steroid or comination steroid-antibiotic eye drop to use following the procedure, which will help with all of the above.
It is possible that the eyelids can become irritated and swollen due to the activators, yet this is less common, and you may experience blurred vision, which will go away on its own shortly after.
There are side effects to any procedure you have done, and this should not stop you from trying out this treatment.
An eyelid hygiene regimen should be incorporated before and after the LipiFlow procedure in order to maintain maximum results. We recommend using a hypochlorous acid eyelid cleanser like Heyedrate Lid and Lash Cleanser (Available OTC, click here to get your first bottle free) or Avenova (prescription only, discuss this with your eye doctor performing your LipiFlow).
We love both IPL and LipiFlow. IPL works in slightly a different way because it uses light instead of pulsation and heat. So, this intense pulsed light or IPL was discovered in dermatology for things like rosacea and acne and just treating wrinkles, discolorations on the skin and things like that, and it was found that it actually helped people with their dry eyes. So, what it does is when it's applied to the eyelids it really does a similar thing to what LipiFlow does -it helps to heat up those meibomian glands and it really decreases the inflammation on the eyelids and just helps those meibomian gland oils release a little bit better.
So, IPL is also a wonderful procedure and I tend to recommend it a little bit more for people that have rosacea and things like that because it can also help with facial rosacea that is so hard to get rid of some of the time. But they're both great procedures.
So, if your doctor has one versus the other just go with that one. If you have the choice of the two it can be kind of tough because they're both good. Check with your insurance!
Is LipiFlow a prescription?
LipiFlow is not a prescription and it is just something that is present in your doctor's office. So, it's a machine that either your doctor will have or they won't have and they'll refer you somewhere that does. You can always ask for it, so if your eye doctor does not have a LipiFlow or an IPL don't be shy about asking them to refer you somewhere that does. It doesn't mean that they're going to refer you away forever, but you can go have that procedure done at the other doctors office if you want to and then you can come back to your other eye doctor if you prefer that doctor. So it's just a matter of the office having the equipment or not having it.
Is LipiFlow safe after a ptosis lift?
A ptosis is a droopy eyelid, and so after you have that lid lifted usually what they do is they'll take a strip of skin out and then they'll sew it back together to lift up your eyelids and so is it safe after that. Usually your eyelids are pretty normal after you have a ptosis lift because they're just taking out excess skin that doesn't have elasticity anymore. Just talk to the person that's doing your LipiFlow and make sure they know that you've had a blepharoplasty or a ptosis lift. But I'm sure it's safe to have done, and I don't see any contraindications from it.
What is the difference between LipiFlow and BlephEx?
BlephEx is a procedure that is more of an exfoliation procedure, whereas LipiFlow is more of a expression procedure. So, LipiFlow expresses the meibomian glands like we talked about, of course, and BlephEx is more exfoliating where the oil comes out and that skin around that area and cleaning up the eyelids itself. BlephEx is more similar to the NuLids at-home device or even our spray. You're just cleaning up the eyelids with BlephEx and just exfoliating the eyelid margins where the meibomian glands open up. LipiFlow is helping you get the glands working again.
Does the NuLids device do the same thing as LipiFlow?
No! The NuLids device is more similar to BlephEx. NuLids cleans along the eyelid margins where the meibomian glands open up, but the NuLids and the BlephEx really don't do anything for those stagnant oils that are stuck inside your meibomian glands. That's what LipiFlow does... it works to get those oils out and get those oils flowing again.
Is it safe to do LipiFlow even if I've had a corneal transplant?
LipiFlow has these little activators that goe over your eyelids and then it has a cup that completely covers the front of your eye, covers your cornea, from heat and pressure. However, your cornea is much more fragile than somebody's cornea that is fully intact and yes, you may have had a corneal transplant years ago and your cornea is now fully intact but it is not as strong as what your normal cornea would be. So, I would absolutely discuss that with your doctor to see what they think. They may recommend that it's perfectly fine, and I agree that it probably is fine especially once you've healed from that and you're not having any issues with your corneal transplant. But it is something to discuss with your doctor (especially the doctor that actually did the procedure would be helpful) or a doctor that does corneal transplants.
Is LipiFlow recommended for someone with no oil? They aren't clogged, just no oil production?
We recommend having a LipiView done to see if you really have no oil, and then after they do a LipiView they'll be able to better advise you on whether to have LipiFlow or not. If you've had a LipiView and they've said no oil production, a LipiFlow won't likely help. However, small studies have shown that LipiFlow may be able to reverse the atrophy of your meibomian glands, so it may not hurt to see if it works for you.
I had IPL and my insurance paid.
That’s amazing! That's very rare, so I'm guessing how your insurance paid for it is they might have coded it as more of a dermatological issue and not an eye issue. I'm guessing they did that so they said you had rosacea and they were treating rosacea on your skin and just getting close to your eyelid to help your meibomian glands as well. So, that's I'm guessing they just coded it a little different.
And so, ophthalmologists versus optometrists -ophthalmologists have the ability to bill totally for facial issues and everything so it's possible that that's how they billed it and it's possible that IPL could be covered by insurance that way. We're talking about LipiFlow today so I didn't do a ton of extra research into the insurance for IPL, but that may be a question for your doctor if they have LipiFlow and IPL available to you.
Is your insurance going to cover one versus the other?
That's a great question for them because it might make your decision.
I can't wear my sclerals before having both puncta plugged. Will there be a difference after?
The whole goal of scleral contact lenses is to bathe your eye with saline solution all the time and so that should add to comfort. Punctal plugs are going to keep more tears in your eyes so they're kind of both doing the same thing. They're keeping more tears on your eye. If you can't wear your sclerals before you get your punctal plugs, I don't think it's going to be any different afterwards. It might actually be worse because you might actually have more inflammation in the eye but if you can't wear your sclerals it's usually a fitting issue. And so, they're fitting too tight or too loose...head back to the doctor who fit them and let them know the symptoms that you're having and how long you're wearing them. With a lot of scleral lens wearers, you may have to take them out every three to four hours to refresh the solution. Also, be careful of what you're using in the scleral lens itself. Don't use anything with preservatives. There's only one on the market and it's made by Menicon, I believe.
Can you use eye drops before LipiFlow or will you not get accurate reading on LipiView?
Think of a LipiView as an x-ray up your meibomian glands even though it doesn't use x-rays, it just uses light. What it's doing is viewing the meibomian glands, which are in your eyelids, so an eye drop that goes on the surface of your eye will not affect the procedure.
And so, LipiFlow is the same thing. Tt's working on your eyelid and so therefore it's not going to cause any problems with eye drops.