Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

What Is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)?

Both the upper and lower eyelids have what are known as Meibomian glands. Pronounced “mī-bō-mē-an”, the glands are named after Heinrich Meibom — the German doctor who first identified them in 1666. These glands produce an oil that is essential to the formation of healthy tears, providing what is called the lipid layer of the tear film. This layer of oil reduces tear evaporation, allowing the surface of the eye to remain moist longer.

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) occurs when these glands are blocked, damaged, or do not function properly, resulting in a decrease in oil production. Without the oil produced by the Meibomian glands, tears evaporate too quickly and dry eye sets in. MGD is also associated with a condition called blepharitis.

Symptoms of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

The symptoms of MGD correspond to those of dry eye disease and include red eyes with a burning sensation, the feeling of grit or sand in your eyes, or irritated eyelids.

Causes of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

While there is no single cause of MGD, research into MGD indicates the following as risk factors for developing MGD:

  • Age
  • Hormonal Deficiencies
  • Autoimmune Disorders
  • Psoriasis
  • Hypertension
  • Wearing Contact Lenses
  • Chronic Blepharitis and Other Eye Infections
  • The Use of Antibiotics, Antihistamines, or Antidepressants

In addition, those of Asian descent are more likely to suffer from MGD with a prevalence rate of nearly 70%.

How Is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Diagnosed?

There is no single method to diagnose MGD; diagnosis entails a combination of techniques.  

A thorough physical exam of the eyelids is normally part of the process. Your doctor might also analyze your tears to assess the health of the lipid layer produced by the Meibomian glands. 

At the Dean McGee Eye Institute, our physicians have access to meibography technology that allows them to actually view the Meibomian glands. This enables them to make a more accurate diagnosis of MGD and prescribe an effective course of treatment.

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Treatment at DMEI

Treatment of MGD will be based on its severity and other factors your doctor will take into account.  

Your doctor may suggest various self-care techniques or lifestyle changes to improve your MGD. Warm compresses, lid massage, and lid scrubs are also common recommendations. For some, eating more omega-3 fatty acids has improved their MGD. In other cases, antibiotics have proven beneficial.

However, the physicians at the Dean McGee Eye Institute also have access to advanced treatment techniques that have proven beneficial to many patients who suffer from MGD. These treatments include the following: