Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a leading cause of evaporative dry eye and ocular discomfort characterized by an unstable tear film principally attributed to afflicted delivery of lipids to the ocular surface. Herein, we elucidated longitudinal tear lipid alterations associated with disease alleviation and symptom improvement in a cohort of MGD patients undergoing eyelid-warming treatment for 12 weeks. Remarkably, eyelid-warming resulted in stark reductions in lysophospholipids ( P < 0.001 for lyso-plasmalogen phosphatidylethanolamine, lysophosphatidylcholine, and lysophosphatidylinositol), as well as numerous PUFA-containing diacylglyceride species in tears, accompanied by significant increases in several PUFA-containing phospholipids. These changes in tear lipidomes suggest that eyelid-warming leads to diminished activity of tear phospholipases that preferentially target PUFA-containing phospholipids.
In addition, treatment led to appreciable increases ( P <0.001) in O-acyl-w-hydroxy-FAs (OAHFAs), which are lipid amphiphiles critical to the maintenance of tear film stability. Longitudinal changes in the tear lipids aforementioned also significantly ( P < 0.05) correlated with reduced rate of ocular evaporation and improvement in ocular symptoms. The foregoing data thus indicate that excess ocular surface phospholipase activity detrimental to tear film stability could be alleviated by eyelid warming alone without application of steroids and identify tear OAHFAs as suitable markers to monitor treatment response in MGD.