Recent studies show that up to 86% of people with dry eye demonstrate signs of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). So if you suffer from dry eye, odds are good that you may have MGD.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is a fairly common cause of dry eye symptoms. However, it is not something most people know much about prior to being diagnosed, and so may be unaware that they have it at first. Below we’ll provide a basic overview of MGD, so you can have a better understanding of your condition.
Meibomian gland dysfunction is when the meibomian glands are either not secreting enough meibum (an oil which is an important component of tears, and prevents them from evaporating too quickly), or is secreting poor quality oil. In many cases, the opening of the glands become clogged, resulting in less secreted oil, and what does make it out can be granular or otherwise irritating to the eyes.
Patients with meibomian gland dysfunction are often asymptomatic at first, but if the condition isn’t treated in the early stages, it can both cause and exacerbate dry eye symptoms and inflammation of the eyelids, which can become extremely unpleasant.
Symptoms of meibomian gland dysfunction may not appear in its early stages. However, as it progresses and less and less of the proper quality oil is secreted into the tear film, the eyes may start to feel itchy or have a burning sensation, and they may also feel dry and irritated. It might also feel like there is constantly a grain of sand or dust in the eye. Irritated and inflamed eyelids may also be red.
Other symptoms can include the inner rim of the eyelid appearing rough or uneven, and blurry vision which improves upon blinking.
Environmental factors like dry air, and spending a lot of time looking at screens, can exacerbate symptoms.
Meibomian gland dysfunction is one of the most common causes of dry eye syndrome, and it can also lead to eyelid inflammation, also known as blepharitis.
These conditions often overlap, and it’s entirely possible to suffer from all of them at once. Although, experts aren’t entirely certain about the nature of their connection, such as which comes first and causes the other.
Additionally, if you already suffer from entreated MGD, eye surgery can increase the risk of infection and inflammation, possibly leading to cornea disease.
Meibomian gland dysfunction needs to be diagnosed by your eye doctor. To check if you have MGD, there are several tests that can be performed.
You’ll be asked to fill out a symptoms assessment form and a dry eye questionnaire, after which points several types of tests may be performed to determine the nature of your dry eye symptoms and whether you have meibomian gland dysfunction. These tests measure the quantity and quality of tears being produced, and some can specifically check the quality of the meibum (the oil produced by the meibomian glands).
These may include:
Additionally, some specialty clinics may use advanced photography utilizing multifunctional corneal topography and digital imaging instruments to obtain accurate looks at the various parts of the eye which may be affected by dry eye.
Based on the results of these tests, the doctor will be able to determine whether you have MGD.
During the early stages of meibomian gland dysfunction, self-care can be helpful.
Additionally, consult with a doctor about taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, as they have anti-inflammatory properties and can improve meibum quality.
More advanced MGD requires medical treatment. Steroids (either topical, spray, eye drops or pills), can be prescribed to help decrease inflammation.
In the office, the doctor may use medical devices specially designed to unblock meibomian glands to improve symptoms. Some of these, such as Systane iLux, Tearcare, Lipiflow, and Mibo Thermoflo, emit heat from the devices directly to the target area to melt buildup and allow the glands to be unclogged via expression of the glands. Intense Pulse Light therapy (IPL), works similarly, but utilizes light to generate the necessary heat to melt the obstructions.
Being consistent with whatever treatment is recommended to you is vital to keep your MGD from getting worse, and in-office treatments such as those mentioned above are capable of providing much longer-lasting relief than at-home treatments like warm compresses.
Meibomian gland dysfunction is a very common problem which can cause dry eye. While in its early stages it can be managed at home, if it gets more severe proper medical care is vital to help relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life. If you’re suffering from dry eye symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact us at American Family Vision Clinic.