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Meibomian Gland Disease Control

Meibomian Gland Disease Control

What is meibomian gland disease?

Meibomian glands are located along the eyelid margin, just behind the eyelashes. They secrete oil which forms the lipid layer of the tear film, contributing to tear film stability. In meibomian gland disease or dysfunction, the oily secretions become much thicker and, in severe cases, clog up the glands. The causes for this are not clearly understood although subclinical bacterial infection is suspected and occasionally mite infestation can be detected.

Patients may be asymptomatic or have dry eye symptoms as the tear film becomes unstable. However, if left undetected for many years, the resulting low-grade inflammation along the eyelid margin has the potential to cause a shortening of the posterior layer of the eyelid margin, giving rise to a subtle inturning of the eyelid margin and the eyelashes. This is known as cicatricial marginal entropion and may require surgical correction to alleviate the eye irritation caused by the inturned eyelashes.

In cases where the glands are fully clogged up, the secretions accumulate within the gland and result in a chalazion which presents as a lump on the eyelid. When the secretions become infected, the lump also becomes red and painful. Chalazia can sometimes be seen to occur in the absence of significant meibomian gland disease, representing a one-off incidental clogging of the meibomian glands. In other words, not every patient with chalazia has chronic meibomian gland dysfunction.

What treatments are available for meibomian gland disease?

As meibomian gland disease tends to be chronic, patients are taught simple lid hygiene measures to keep the glands unclogged. These include the use of warm compresses, gentle lid massage and use of eyelid cleaning wipes. Baby shampoo can also be used in place of eyelid wipes.

Additionally, your eye doctor may recommend antibiotic therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and/or supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids. Ocular lubricants may also be recommended. On the odd occasion, should your eye doctor detect the presence of mites on your eyelashes, anti-mite treatment might be initiated.