Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

See also: Blepharitis, Dry Eye Syndrome

Meibomian (mi-BOE-mee-an) glands are important oil-secreting glands located within our eyelids. The ducts for the glands are located along the margin of the eyelid. Oil from the meibomian glands is secreted into the tear film to keep our tears from evaporating too quickly.

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is the term used to describe problems with the meibomian glands secreting the proper quantity and quality of oil into the tear film. In some cases, the oil may become thicker than normal, blocking the narrow ducts that open at the eyelid margin.

If you have dry eye from plugged oil glands, artificial tears and/or punctal occlusion may not provide adequate relief. Although artificial tears may help for a short time, they too will evaporate quickly when there is an insufficient protective oil layer.

MGD Treatment

Treatment of meibomian gland dysfunction consists of methods to unplug the glands. The simplest way to do this is by putting a warm, moist towel over your eyes for several minutes to melt any thickened oil that may be clogging the gland openings. After the warm compresses, gently massage your eyelids near the lashes to express the meibomian glands.

When this regimen is repeated regularly twice a day, symptoms can drastically improve within a week. But wait at least a month after LASIK surgery before performing lid massages. When the eye is healing, manipulation of the eyelids can increase the risk of infection or flap dislodgement after LASIK.

Your eye doctor may also prescribe a medicated eye drop that may help keep your meibomian glands from getting clogged. Nutritional studies also suggest flaxseed oil supplements may reduce your risk of meibomian gland dysfunction.