Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is probably the most common eye problem you have never heard of. The strange sounding name is likely part of the reason. MGD is also called “meibomianitis,” which is not any easier to remember.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Meibomian glands are a specific kind of sebaceous gland located on the rim of the eyelids and are responsible for supplying meibum to the eye, an oily substance that prevents evaporation of the eye’s tear film. Meibum keeps your tears from spilling onto the cheeks, by trapping the tears between the oily edge of the eyelids and your eyeball, and ensures that the closed eyelids remain airtight. There are about 40 meibomian glands on the upper eyelids as well as close to 30 glands on the lower lids.
Dysfunctional meibomian glands are often the cause of blepharitis.
Meibomian gland dysfunction is either a blockage or other abnormality of the meibomian glands causing them not to secrete enough oil into the tears, causing the tears then to evaporate too quickly. Therefore, MGD is the leading cause of dry eye syndrome.
The symptoms of MGD are nearly identical to those of dry eye syndrome — itchy, red eyes, with a sandy, gritty feeling, and blurred vision. Only your eye doctor can determine if you have MGD.
Treatment for Dry Eye Disease
At Carteret Eyecare Associates, we diagnose and treat dry eye syndrome and MGD. If your optometrist diagnoses you with MGD, you have many successful treatment options available such as:
- Meibomian gland probing is a simple in-office technique performed by your eye doctor to unclog main duct of your meibomian glands. Anesthetic eye drops are applied to the eye, and then your doctor will use a hand-held instrument to open and dilate the meibomian glands near the base of the eyelashes. It has been reported that up to 96 percent of patients found immediate relief of MGD symptoms after this procedure, and 100 percent had relief within one month.
- Antibacterial eye drops have helped resolve meibomian gland dysfunction in many cases, and your eye doctor will advise you whether this is a good option for you.
- Cyclosporine eye drops, are another option. Cyclosporine is an immune response agent, and a medication found in the prescription eye drop Restasis, which is used to treat dry eye symptoms.
- The LipiFlow thermal pulsation system (TearScience) is an in-office technique which applies heat to the eyelids to melt waxy deposits in the meibomian glands, and at the same time, it delivers pulsed pressure to the eyelid to completely express the meibomian glands.The LipiFlow device is attached to the eyelid for a 12-minute treatment, and is specifically designed so that there is no transfer of heat or pressure whatsoever from the eyelids to the eyeball itself. Your eye doctor will determine whether this is a good option for you.
- Many eye doctors highly recommend diet rich with omega-3 fatty acid, and even omega-3 supplementation, in addition to one of the MGD treatments above. A diet rich in omega-3s seems to greatly reduce the incidence of future episodes of MGD. As well, doctors have seen that these essential fatty acids help to suppress inflammation associated with MGD and decrease the risk of waxy build-up within the meibomian glands.
If you are suffering from red, itchy, dry, and irritated eyes, make an eye exam appointment for a dry eye evaluation today.