Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is an eye health condition that affects millions of people, most of whom have never had their condition diagnosed. People often consider eye irritation “normal” or the result of tired eyes, and never mention the symptoms to their eye doctor. But, one of the most common side effects of MGD is Dry Eye Disease (DED). Dry Eye affects many people as they age.
If you are searching for home treatments for Dry Eye, knowing the best method to unblock oil glands will help you find consistent relief from your symptoms. Additionally, when you understand the causes, effects, and strategies for treating MGD and DED, you will find sticking to a treatment plan easier.
Sticking to your treatment plan is critical, because Dry Eye is chronic and incurable. If you stop treatment once you get relief from symptoms like excessive tears, grittiness or stinging, those symptoms will eventually reoccur.
How Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Leads to Dry Eye
Each eyelid typically contains 30-50 Meibomian oil glands, situated behind the follicles of the eyelashes. These glands secrete oil (called Meibum) onto the tear film surface, thereby reducing evaporation of tears. Ideally, the tear film comprises the correct amount of oil, mucus and water. If the tears try to work with insufficient oil due to MGD, abnormally high tear evaporation occurs.
Clogged Meibomian glands cause this imbalance of oil and water in your tears. This makes MGD the leading cause of Dry Eye!
The Negative Effects of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Once the oil glands of the eyelids become plugged, a variety of unpleasant conditions may arise:
1. What are Styes?
A stye is an infection that can manifest in a follicle of the eyelash or in a Meibomian gland. Styes are pimples (inflamed bumps) among the lashes along the eyelid. A doctor may need to prescribe antibiotics if the infection spreads past the lash line. Otherwise, warm eye compress treatment at home may be all you need to treat them.
2. What is Blepharitis?
When meibum becomes hardened and trapped in the oil glands, blepharitis can occur. We use this term to describe inflammation of the eyelids. Symptoms may include watery eyes that burn and itch, as well as redness, crustiness, and flaky skin on the eyelids. We usually recommend increased eyelid hygiene to manage this issue. And regular use of warm compresses will also help relieve and control the condition.
3. What is a Chalazion?
Another result of trapped oil in the Meibomian glands can be a chalazion, also known as a Meibomian cyst. Your Eye Care Professional might need to drain this type of cyst. However, warm compresses and eyelid hygiene often suffice for treating chalazions.
4. What is Trichiasis?
Sometimes, the lids remain inflamed for too long from MGD. This can lead to the eyelashes growing in an abnormal direction (toward the eyes instead of away from them). At this point, your doctor will need to remove the wayward lashes, and the Meibomian gland dysfunction should be treated aggressively with the ongoing help of your Eye Care Professional.
5. What is Dry Eye Disease?
As previously mentioned, DED is a fairly typical result of MGD. Clogged oil glands lead to a reduced amount of protective oil in your tears. Without that coating of oil, the water in your tears evaporates too quickly. Chronically dry eyes result, causing inflammation and painful irritation. And, paradoxically, you may shed too many tears as the eyes try to compensate for the rapid evaporation. Common treatments for dry eye symptoms include artificial tears, increased lid hygiene, and warm compresses at home.
Eye drops serving as artificial tears have their own pro’s and con’s, so try lid hygiene and warm compresses as the first step for controlling MGD.
How to Get Relief from the Blocked Eyelid Oil Glands that Cause Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
If you suffer from dry eye or any of the issues discussed here, you will need a consistent plan of treatment. Your eye doctor can offer guidance about treatment options, as well as applicable office-based treatments.
But, fortunately, many of the problems caused by clogged meibum glands are manageable at home with proper lid hygiene and warm compresses. Your doctor might also recommend gentle eye massage while a warm compress is applied, or immediately afterwards.
Using the best eye masks for dry eye will ultimately get you better results, too. We specifically designed EyeGiene warm eye compresses and eye health supplements to provide relief from MGD and the dry eye symptoms it causes.