What Are Meibomian Glands?
Before we look at what exactly meibomian gland dysfunction is, we should look at what and where the meibomian glands are. Meibomian glands a very small glands (tiny openings) found on the upper and lower eye lid margins. You can’t usually see them with the naked eye, but they can be seen by an eye specialist using a slit lamp. The purpose of these glands is to secrete oil when we blink. Tears are made up of 3 components; water, mucous and oil. The oil secreted by the meibomian glands helps keep the water component of the tears on the eye surface for longer to avoid evaporation and dryness of the eyes.
What Is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
Meibomian gland dysfunction, also known as MGD, is a very common form of dry eye disease, in which the meibomian glands do not secrete enough of the oil component or the oil they do secrete is of a poor quality. In people with MGD the meibomian glands usually start to get blocked and only a small amount, if any at all, oil is secreted. As this important oil part of the tear is not there, the water element evaporates from the eye very quickly leading to dry eye symptoms.
What Causes Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
MGD can be caused by many things, sometimes it is easy for an ophthalmologist to find the cause and other times it’s not so easy, and many investigations need to be done, and on occasion the cause may never be known. Some causes of meibomian gland dysfunction could be;
• Medications; such as antihistamines, or those that reduce oil production like acne medications
• Autoimmune diseases; like rosacea or Sjogren’s syndrome
• Inflammation or damage to the eyelids or cornea
• Contact lens wear
• Digital eye strain
• Environmental factors
How to Treat Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
There are various types of treatment to help with meibomian gland dysfunction, and what works great for one sufferer may not suit another, but during a dry eye/MGD consultation the eye specialist will go through what options would be best. Some of the treatments can include;
• Daily heated eye masks followed by eye lid massaging
• Using artificial tear replacement therapies
• Nutritional supplements of omega 3
• Oral and/or topical prescribed medications
• Environmental changes, where possible
• MiBo Thermoflo heated eye treatment; this is an in-clinic treatment which warms the glands to enable a more thorough manual gland expression, this helps to unblock the glands
• Intense Regulated Pulsed Light (IRPL); this is another in-clinic treatment offered as a course to help to get the glands working as they should do again by using flashes of IRPL
Not all patients are suitable for all treatments and therapies, and it is essential to undergo a thorough dry eye consultation with a specialist consultant to ensure the best and safest course of treatment is given.
Author: Samer Hamada is a distinguished consultant ophthalmologist and cornea surgeon performing eye surgeries at his practice, the Eye Clinic London. With nearly two decades’ experience, Mr. Hamada is recognised as a leading expert in the field of cataract, refractive lens exchange (RLE) and corneal surgeries.
Please call 0800 197 8808 for friendly advice and information.