Everything You Need to Know About Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

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.

Everything You Need to Know About Meibomian Gland Dysfunction in Olympia

What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

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. 

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What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

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

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.

Symptoms
MGD Complications

MGD Complications

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.

MGD Complications

How is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Diagnosed?

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:

  • Measure of osmolarity
  • Tear secretion test, such as the Schirmer’s test
  • Measurement of tear volume
  • Tear evaporation rate (Evaporimetry)
  • Corneal and conjunctival staining

Tests to assess ocular inflammation

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.

At-Home Care

During the early stages of meibomian gland dysfunction, self-care can be helpful.

  • Placing a warm, wet washcloth or a heat back over your eyelids twice a day for 5 minutes, can help loosen the oil. You can follow this with a light fingertip massage of the eyelids.
  • To massage the upper lids, look downward and then gently roll one side of your finger from the top of the eyelid to the lash line. To massage the lower lid, stare upward as you roll a finger up to the lash line.
  • Using a non-soap cleanser can help unblock gland openings, and a humidifier can counteract the drying effect of air conditioning and heating.
  • It is also advised to avoid the eye areas when you use beauty products that contain retinoids.
  • If you wear contacts, water gradient daily disposable lenses may be more comfortable.

Additionally, consult with a doctor about taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, as they have anti-inflammatory properties and can improve meibum quality.

Symptoms
MGD Complications

Medical Treatment

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.

Common Questions

Depends on the severity of the meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). We have meibomian glands on our upper and lower lid margin that help to produce oil, which contributes to the outermost oil layer of our tears and prevents our tears from evaporating. MGD is when the glands don’t work properly. If these glands are blocked, they do not secrete the oils necessary to maintain a healthy tear film, and can eventually die off resulting in various symptoms such as dry eyes, burning, itching, irritation, tearing, foreign body sensation etc. If the glands have already atrophied then there is no way of getting the glands back. However, if the glands are still present but just truncated or tortuous, then there is still a chance to allow the glands to start working properly again with various MGD treatment options.
Everything You Need to Know About Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
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Summary

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. Patients with dry eyes visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of dry eye care for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.

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Testimonials


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.


Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.


June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.


Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.


Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.


Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.


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