Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a chronic, progressive condition that occurs when the protective oil that normally flows from the meibomian glands in the eyelid decreases or stops. Eventually, blockage or structural damage of the glands occurs. This oil protects the tears from evaporating and lubricates the surface of the eyes when you blink. The lack of oil will then cause the tear film to rapidly evaporate, leaving the eye’s surface exposed. Over time, the exposure will cause increased discomfort, contact lens intolerance, various dry eye irritation symptoms and impact the quality of vision.
Primarily, dry eye symptoms have been thought to be a direct result of the eye’s inability to produce the proper amount of natural tears, yet we now know that is not the case. Today, research has shown that the leading cause of evaporative dry eye is caused by MGD. This disease is best detected in the earliest stages to manage and limit its progression.
One of the main contributing factors to MGD is an incomplete blink. A complete blink is necessary to pull the oil from the glands and into the tear film. An accumulation of debris can also help to block the opening of the meibomian glands and impact normal gland function. When left untreated, meibomian gland function is compromised and can eventually lead to permanent gland loss.
MDG can be identified by your eye doctor through the evaluation of both the function and the structure of your meibomian glands. During the eye exam, your doctor will determine if your glands are releasing oil during the blinking process. Your eye structure can then be observed with Dynamic Meibomian Imaging (DMI) that will provide an accurate image of your meibomian glands.
MGD has proved to affect people of all ages. Factors such as dry environments and excessive use of display screens can cause infrequent blinking or evaporative stress. This lack of blinking creates a demand for more lubrication on the eye and stimulates more oil production—eventually causing the oil to thicken, blockage of the gland openings and/or a shutdown of oil production in the gland.
Studies have shown that 86% of those diagnosed with dry eye have MGD. So, how can MGD or evaporative dry eye be treated? Some treatments can alleviate the dry eye symptoms but provide only temporary relief—not treating the actual problem. MGD is best managed by treating the root cause using the LipiFlow System. Through an in-office procedure, an eye care professional applies precise vectored thermal pulsation to remove the gland blockage and help restore gland function. To learn about the LipiFlow treatment, visit the Dry Eye Treatment Services page of our website.