The eyelids help to protect the eyes from injury while providing moisture for healthy eye function. They contain muscles that allow them to open and close, covered by skin. The outer eyelid has eyelashes, while the inner eyelid has a mucous membrane lining. The meibomian glands are on the upper and lower lid edges. They are responsible for the production of oil for the tear film.
Meibomian glands line the edge of the upper and lower lids. The upper eyelids have about 25 to 40 glands, while the lower lids have between 20 and 30. The glands produce an oily secretion that coats the eye.
Tears contain three layers: oil, water, and mucus. These layers nourish and protect the eye surface. If there is a problem with any of the layers, it can lead to irritation, blurry vision, or dry eyes. Oil makes up part of the tear film that reduces the rate of tear evaporation.
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a condition that occurs when the glands fail to produce adequate oil for the tear film. Inadequate or poor-quality oil (meibum) causes blepharitis or dry eye syndrome.
Blocked oil glands reduce the quantity of oil. Thick secretions block the glands, affecting normal oil flow and causing irritation. MGD does not usually present symptoms in the early stages. Without treatment, it can lead to dry eye syndrome and eyelid inflammation.
Several symptoms can indicate an individual suffers from MGD. The symptoms include:
A burning sensation
Foreign body sensation
Styes or chalazion can be due to MGD. If you have any of the symptoms, visit an eye doctor for diagnosis. Treatment can help to relieve or reduce the symptoms.
When MGD becomes chronic, the oil glands are constantly clogged or blocked. Reduced oil secretion can cause permanent tear film damage and dry eye syndrome. The risk of MGD increases with age and often affects individuals over 50. Women are more likely to develop MGD. Wearing eye makeup increases the risk of blocked eye glands. Over 70% of individuals who suffer from dry eye condition have MGD.
A comprehensive eye exam can help to determine if you have MGD. During the exam, the doctor observes the meibum secretions and measures the tear quantity, quality, and stability. Treatment options are also available:
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy uses a special light to treat MGD
LipiFlow dry eye treatment helps to open the meibomian glands
TearCare heating patches help to unclog the glands
iLUX treatment works by melting the waxy secretions causing the blockage
BlephEx uses a device to exfoliate the eyelids and open the meibomian glands
Steroid eye drops help to reduce inflammation, improving tear flow
Lid debridement helps to clean the eyelid margins and open the glands
Doctors may also prescribe prescription eye drops to treat severe dry eye. Studies suggest omega-3 supplements can reduce eye discomfort and relieve dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye syndrome can cause severe discomfort and affect an individual’s vision. Prompt treatment can help to reduce the severity of symptoms. For more on meibomian gland dysfunction, visit Westchester Eyes at our office in Yonkers, New York. Call 914-586-EYES (3937) to book an appointment today.