The meibomian (pronounced my-BOH-mee-an) glands play an important role in keeping your eyelids moist and functioning properly. If they get clogged or develop an abnormality called meibomian gland dysfunction, dry eye symptoms may be the result. If meibomian gland dysfunction is not addressed, it can eventually compromise the health and function of your eyes.
Read on as the team at Vista Eye Specialists reveals what you need to know about meibomian gland dysfunction.
How Do the Meibomian Glands Work?
The meibomian glands are located in the upper and lower eyelids. Their job is to make and secrete oils onto the surface of the eye. The pressure of blinking causes the glands to express small amounts of this oil; as the eyes open, the oil is spread over the surface of the eye.
These oils prevent the tear film from evaporating too quickly off the surface of the eyes; they also allow the eyelids to glide smoothly over the surface of the eye when blinking.
However, if the meibomian glands become blocked or clogged, less oil is able to reach the surface of the eyes. As a result, the tears evaporate from the eyes too quickly, and the eyes can dry out. Inflammation can also occur in the eyelids, particularly along the rims of the lids.
When meibomian gland dysfunction is not addressed and treated, the glands are at risk of atrophying and losing their function. Over time, this can cause chronic discomfort and potential vision loss as the ocular surface is damaged.
What Causes Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
A number of factors can cause meibomian gland dysfunction. Age is thought to be a risk factor, as the number of meibomian glands decreases with age. Certain ethnic races are more likely to get the disease, as are contact lens wearers. Medical issues like autoimmune diseases, allergic conjunctivitis and other eye disease have also been linked to meibomian gland dysfunction.
Treating Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
To treat meibomian gland dysfunction, the glands must be unblocked and any debris or dead cells that have accumulated in the glands must be flushed out.
Sometimes this can be accomplished by applying a warm compress to the eyelids and gently massaging them. Nowadays, doctors offer treatments like LipiFlow and other therapies, which combine heat and massage to clear out the eyelids.
If your eyes feel dry, itchy or irritated, you should see one of our doctors for a complete eye exam. To book an appointment, please call 1-888-EYE-JANI (393-5264) or email us today.