Meibomian Gland Dysfunction and Treatment

What are Meibomian (Oil) Glands?

Meibomian glands are glands that are arranged vertically within the eyelid near the lashes. The force of an eyelid blink causes oil to be excreted onto the posterior lid margin. The oil is the “staying power” of the tears that helps prevent rapid tear evaporation. In a patient with Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), vision is affected because there is too much or too little oil in the tear film.

What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

MGD, is the most common form of lid margin disease. In the early stages, patients are often asymptomatic, but if left unmanaged, MGD can cause or exacerbate dry eye symptoms and eyelid inflammation. The oil glands become blocked with thickened secretions. Chronically clogged glands eventually become unable to secrete oil which results in permanent changes in the tear film and dry eyes.  Symptoms include:

  • Dryness
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Stickiness
  • Watering
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Red Eyes
  • Foreign Body Sensation
  • Chalazion/Styes
  • Intermittent Blurry Vision

What is the Treatment?

Heating the lids will increase oil production and melt the oil that has solidified in the glands. Use a warm washcloth to apply heat on the eyelids for two minutes. This warms the oil, allowing it to flow more freely, and helps soften lash debris. 

Apply light pressure with your index finger or a Q-tip to the lid margin near the lash line.  Roll the finger upward on the lower lid while looking up, then roll the finger downward on the upper lid while looking down. Excessive manipulation of the lids can cause additional irritation, so lid massage and scrubs should be performed only twice a day during the acute stage, and once daily during maintenance

This helps to remove oil, bacteria and debris. It also stimulates the oil glands. Use a Q-tip or a warm washcloth on the tips of your fingers to rub along the lash line on the top and bottom lid.

In addition to the above, some people benefit by adding omega-3 fats to their diet which will help with the oil consistency. About 1tsp/day for toddlers or 1Tbsp/day for older children is enough. Mix with juice, smoothies, or hot cereal. Do not take with blood-thinning medication or blood-sugar lowering medication.   If your child can take pills, there are tablets that can be taken instead (ex Thera Tears Nutrition).

Used in conjunction with warm compresses and lid massage helps to health of  Meibonian Glands so that it can produce the essential oils in the tear film.