Radiofrequency treatment is normally used to tighten the skin around the eyes for aesthetic purposes. It’s generally safe, minimally invasive, and suitable for all skin colors.

The technique is now being adopted to treat conditions such as dry eye. In this article, we share answers to some commonly asked questions about radiofrequency treatment for dry eye.

Radiofrequency treatment is a nonsurgical, in-office procedure. It’s often used to tighten the skin around the eyes to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, or a droopy or baggy appearance. The technique is now being used to treat dry eye, as well.

During the procedure, a handheld device called a radiofrequency applicator is used to send energy waves into your skin.

These waves, also known as high-frequency electrical currents, heat up the inner layer of the skin. The heat in turn stimulates the production of collagen, a protein responsible for your skin’s firmness and elasticity.

The heat can also help restore the function of the meibomian glands, which will then help improve symptoms of dry eye.

The quantity and quality of your tears can decrease. When this happens, you can develop dry eye, a condition where your eyes aren’t moisturized or hydrated enough. In many cases, this condition is caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).

The meibomian gland is found around your eyelids and near your eyelashes. It secretes oil that, along with water and mucus, makes up your tears. It also controls the rate at which the tears evaporate.

The meibomian gland can get clogged. When this happens, it stops working properly and isn’t able to produce the necessary oil. You may not feel the effect of this in the early stages. But if this carries on untreated, you can develop dry eye.

Common symptoms of dry eye include:

  • burning sensation
  • pain
  • redness
  • blurry vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • eye fatigue
  • sandy sensation in your eyes
  • watery eyes

Anyone can get dry eye. However, certain people may have an increased risk of developing the condition. They include people who are:

  • 65 years or older
  • women
  • living with type 1 diabetes
  • not getting enough vitamin A or omega-3 fatty acids through their diet
  • living with autoimmune conditions such as lupus or Sjögren syndrome
  • living in places with dry and windy climates
  • exposed to smoke
  • spending long periods of time staring at a computer screen

Radiofrequency treatment uses heat generated by electrical currents and applies it to the inner layer of the skin around your eyes. The heat melts any oily substances that may be blocking the meibomian glands.

When this happens, normal activity can be restored, and these glands can begin to secrete oil into your tears. This will in turn improve the symptoms of dry eye.

Radiofrequency can also reduce inflammation around your eyes, which often worsens your symptoms.

Your doctor may need about 10 to 20 minutes to complete a session.

However, the total time you spend during each visit is likely to be longer. This is because your doctor will need time to prepare for your treatment and to allow time for you to rest after the treatment.

This technique is known to be safe, and it isn’t painful. You shouldn’t feel any pain or discomfort during your treatment. Your doctor gently rubs your skin with his handheld device to send heatwaves into it.

However, if you experience any pain, let your doctor know.

When you start radiofrequency treatment for your dry eye, you’re likely to visit your doctor for 2 to 4 weeks. This depends on what your doctor determines will help you improve your symptoms.

While you can feel some difference after a session, you can start noticing significant changes after three to four treatments.

Depending on your skin tone, you may notice some redness around your eyelids. There may also be swelling. However, these effects should disappear after a few hours. After this, you can gently moisturize the area around your eyes.

As your dry eye symptoms improve, you may also notice that the skin around your eyes feels tighter and more elastic. This reduces the appearance of any fine lines or wrinkles.

After treatment, you can return to your daily activities.

Studies show promising results on the effectiveness of radiofrequency in treating dry eye. A 2018 study suggests that the procedure can improve the functioning of meibomian glands and alleviate dry eye symptoms.

Further research needs to be conducted to provide more evidence on the effectiveness of this treatment. A clinical trial looking into the effectiveness and safety of radiofrequency treatment for dry eye is set to be completed in May 2022.

Another type of treatment for dry eye is IPL therapy. During this procedure, your doctor uses controlled light to target blood vessels in your facial tissues. Studies on this treatment have shown that it can reduce dry eye symptoms.

Just like radiofrequency, IPL is a noninvasive method that treats your dry eye by getting to the root of your condition.

In IPL therapy, this root is within your blood vessels. In radiofrequency, it’s in the meibomian glands around your eyelids. The two methods target different areas to achieve the same result.

Radiofrequency is one of the latest treatments being used to treat dry eye. The procedure is safe, and it’s possible to carry on with your daily activities after treatment. If you experience any discomfort, let your eye doctor know.

If you have dry eye and are considering radiofrequency treatment, consult your doctor about this. They’ll examine you and determine whether this method is the best solution to alleviate your symptoms.