Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Meibomian glands are the tiny oil glands which line the margin of the eyelids (the edges which touch when the eyelids are closed). There are about 25 to 40 meibomian glands in the upper eyelid and 20 to 30 in the lower eyelid that secrete oils onto the surface of the eye. These oils help keep the tears from evaporating too quickly. The tear film lubricates and keeps the surface of our eyes healthy; it also affects how clearly we see.
Meibomian gland dysfunction is a common condition where the glands are not secreting enough oil or when the oil they secrete is of poor quality. In the early stages, it is often asymptomatic but if left untreated, it can commonly be the cause of irritated dry, gritty eyes and redness and inflammation in the eye and eyelids and in more advanced stage even infections (conjunctivitis, blepharitis) as well as styes (hordeoleums). Often, the oil gland openings get plugged-up with thicker secretions so that less oil comes out of the glands. The oil that does make it out of the glands can be granular (crusty) or otherwise abnormal, and can cause irritation. Chronically clogged glands eventually become unable to secrete oil, which results in permanent changes in the tear film and dry eyes.
Meibomian gland dysfunction symptoms:
- Dry eyes
- Stickiness or crustiness
- Watering eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Red eyes
- Foreign body sensation
- Chalazion or styes
- Intermittent blurry vision
Risk factors of meibomian gland dysfunction
Meibomian gland dysfunction has been linked to:
- Age – greater risk for people over 40
- Can be the underlying cause of dry eyes
- Ethnic background – higher prevalence in Asian populations
- Wearing eye makeup – eyeliner can clog the openings of the meibomian glands
Meibomian gland dysfunction treatment
Treatment of meibomian gland dysfunction may consist of warm compress and lid massage, lid scrubs, supplements, eye drops or other treatments. Your optometrist will be able to diagnose meibomian gland dysfunction and discuss the best treatment plan personalised for you.