Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
What are Meibomian (Oil) Glands?
Meibomian glands are glands that are arranged vertically within the eyelid near the lashes. The force of an eyelid blink causes oil to be excreted onto the posterior lid margin. The oil is the “staying power” of the tears that helps prevent rapid tear evaporation. In a patient with Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), vision is affected because there is too much or too little oil in the tear film.
What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
MGD is the most common form of eyelid margin disease. In the early stages, patients are often asymptomatic, but if left unmanaged, MGD can cause or exacerbate dry eye symptoms and eyelid inflammation. The oil glands become blocked with thickened secretions. Chronically clogged glands eventually become unable to secrete oil which results in permanent changes in the tear film and dry eyes. Those who already have Blepharitis are also more prone to MGD. Blepharitis is inflammation and infection in the eyelids, normally around the base of the eyelids and around the lashes. It also causes blurry vision, light sensitivity and a burning sensation. Additionally, there may be visible crusting around the eyes.
Symptoms of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction symptoms include red eyes, irritation, dry eyes, and blurry vision. The challenge is that a wide range of problems can cause most of these symptoms. Catching the problem in a timely manner can maintain healthy eyes and prevent harmful bacterial infection in the gland.
Causes of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
The causes of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction are relatively straightforward. The Meibomian glands are located in the edge of the eyelid. They produce an oily substance composed mostly of lipids, which prevents the tear film from evaporating. The lipid fluid allows the tear film to spread evenly around the eyes and seals the lids when eyes are closed. The dysfunction may be caused by a buildup in the gland or an improper consistency of the lipids.
Conventional Treatment for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Warm Compresses: Heating the lids will increase oil production and melt the oil that has solidified in the glands. Use a warm washcloth to apply heat on the eyelids for two minutes. This warms the oil, allowing it to flow more freely, and helps soften lash debris.
Massage: Apply light pressure with your index finger or a Q-tip to the lid margin near the lash line. Roll the finger upward on the lower lid while looking up, and then roll the finger downward on the upper lid while looking down. Excessive manipulation of the lids can cause additional irritation, so lid massage and scrubs should be performed only twice a day during the acute stage, and once daily during maintenance
Lid Scrubs: This helps to remove oil, bacteria and debris. It also stimulates the oil glands. Use a Q-tip or a warm washcloth on the tips of your fingers to rub along the lash line on the top and bottom lid.
Flax Seed Oil: In addition to the above, some people benefit by adding omega-3 fats to their diet which will help with the oil consistency. About 1tsp/day for toddlers or 1Tbsp/day for older children is enough. Mix with juice, smoothies, or hot cereal. Do not take with blood-thinning medication or blood-sugar lowering medication. If your child can take pills, there are tablets that can be taken instead (example, Thera Tears Nutrition).
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Commonly Asked Questions:
What will help?
There are a number of low vision aids that will help with what peripheral
vision you have left such as glasses, hand or stand magnifiers, or telescopes.
With good motivation and low vision aids, most who suffer from AMD can
continue to lead relatively normal lives.