Your meibomian glands are tiny structures in the eyelids that produce an essential component of your tears called meibum (oil). This oily substance helps keep your eyes lubricated, preventing the evaporation of tears and maintaining optimal eye health.
However, when these glands become clogged, meibomian gland dysfunction occurs, which can lead to several eye problems, including dry eyes, redness, irritation, and even infections. In-office treatments from your eye doctor and at-home eyelid hygiene practices can unclog your meibomian glands and help you maintain healthy eyes.
What Is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a common condition caused by the blockage or dysfunction of the meibomian glands, leading to a reduction in the production of meibum. In the early stages, you might not notice anything, but if it’s left untreated, you can experience symptoms.
It can cause the tear film to evaporate quickly, resulting in dry, irritated eyes. Other symptoms of MGD can include the following:
- Redness and inflammation
- A gritty sensation
- Blurred vision
If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your eye doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Causes of MGD
Several factors are responsible for decreased oil production from the meibomian glands. These can include:
- Wearing contact lenses
- Dry environments
- Hormonal changes
- Autoimmune diseases like Sjögren’s syndrome
- Skin conditions like rosacea
- Medications, such as hormone replacement therapy and retinoids
Together with your family and medical history, tests conducted during a comprehensive eye exam help your eye doctor diagnose MGD before recommending a personalized treatment plan. Your eye doctor may test your tear break-up time, which measures how quickly your tears evaporate.
How to Unclog Meibomian Glands
Several treatments can help unclog meibomian glands and relieve symptoms of MGD. These can include in-office treatments and eyelid hygiene practices you can do at home.
Equinox Low-Level Light Treatment (LLLT) uses a wearable device that gently warms your oil-producing glands. The heat can melt or loosen blockages in your meibomian glands for dry eye relief.
LipiFlow is an in-office treatment that uses gentle heat and pressure on the meibomian glands to loosen oil blockages. It works best with repeated sessions.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is a non-invasive treatment that uses pulsed light to increase meibomian gland functionality, reduce inflammation, and improve tear break-up time.
Custom-Made Eye Drops
Autologous serum eye drops (ASEDs) and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) eye drops are custom-made from your blood. We may recommend these specialized eye drops if you suffer from Sjögren’s Syndrome, neuropathic corneal pain, or other severe dry eye conditions.
Studies have shown that ASEDs and PRP eye drops can provide better relief to some people.
Higgins Brothers’ Vision Care is one of the few optometry offices that provide custom-made ASEDs and PRP eye drops in New England and Connecticut. If you’re interested in seeing if these eye drops are a treatment option, reach out to us!
Meibomian Gland Expression
A gentle massage of the eyelids using various techniques can help clear blockages in your meibomian glands.
Intraductal Probing (Maskin Probing)
Intraductal meibomian gland probing may be recommended for severe dry eyes caused by MGD. It can effectively clear obstructions in the meibomian glands.
Oral Supplements & Lifestyle Changes
Nutritional and lifestyle factors can also affect your tear film. Oral supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation and improve the function of meibomian glands. Other changes to your environment and diet can include changing aspects of your office or home or eating foods rich in certain vitamins and minerals.
Ways to Prevent Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Maintaining healthy habits can go a long way in preventing MGD and promoting eye health. Here are some tips to prevent MGD:
- Maintain a routine of warm eye compresses and lid scrubs even when you don’t have symptoms.
- Make a habit of frequent blinking to keep your eyes lubricated, especially when using digital devices.
- Wear sunglasses outdoors to protect your eyes from natural elements, like the wind and sun.
- Use a humidifier at work and home.
- Avoid smoking or environments with smoke.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Restore Eye Comfort in Plainville
Meibomian gland dysfunction is a common condition that can cause dryness, irritation, and infections. However, with the right treatment and prevention strategies, your eye doctor can help you unclog your meibomian glands and maintain optimal eye health.
Regular eye exams can help detect early signs of MGD and provide early interventions. If you experience symptoms of MGD, book an appointment with Higgins Brothers’ Vision Care for a diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.