What are Meibomian Glands?
Meibomian glands are large sebaceous glands located at the edge of the upper and lower eyelids near the lashes. Their job is to secrete an oily substance called meibum that then becomes a part of the tear film. This oily component acts to slow the evaporation of tears, providing protection and keeping the surface of the eye adequately lubricated.
What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
MGD, also referred to as posterior blepharitis or evaporative dry eye, is a condition that develops when the meibomian glands become obstructed or inflamed. Inflammation of the glands can alter the composition of secretions causing the meibum to thicken and block the glands. When the glands become clogged they are unable to secrete oil resulting in a change in the tear film. Because the oil is no longer there to prevent evaporation, tears evaporate more rapidly leading to symptoms of dry eye. This can be a result of many factors such as insufficient blinking, poor lid hygiene, make-up residue, certain medical conditions or bacteria.
What are the symptoms of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
The most common complaints associated with MGD are dry or itchy eyes, excessive tearing, a burning sensation and the feeling of a foreign body in the eye. Other symptoms include sensitivity to light, red eyes, intermittent blurry vision, frequent styes, a discharge coming from the eye and trouble wearing contact lenses. These symptoms also show up in several other conditions of the eye, so be sure to see your optometrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment options.
How is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction treated?
The good news is, most treatments for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction can easily be done at home. The most popular treatment for MGD involves a regular routine of applying a warm compress to the eye. Heat is used to gently cover the eye, increasing oil production and melting solidified oil in the glands. Your optometrist may also recommend gentle massage to loosen oil and debris and stimulate the meibomian glands. Another important step to treating MGD involves the regular use of lid wipes or lid scrubs to clean the eyelids and lash line removing debris, hardened oil and bacteria. Internally, Omega-3 supplementation is often recommended to help promote proper oil consistency and reduce inflammation. For cases affecting daily activities, your optometrist may recommend a lipid-based artificial tear to help replenish the deficient oil layer of the tear film.