Meibomian glands are tiny glands situated around both eyelids, just under the eyelashes and there are about twenty to forty on both the upper and lower eye lids. The normal tears are formed of three layers – an oily (lipid) layer, a watery (aqueous) layer and a sticky (mucous) layer. The meibomian glands produce a clear, oily liquid called meibum that forms the upper lipid layer of the tears enabling them to spread and hold the tears in the eye.
Firstly the glands can become blocked and the eyelids appear sore and swollen. They can feel dry, itchy or gritty as if you have something in your eye. You may feel that the eyes become watery which can cause your vision to be blurry.
If the glands become blocked, tears lose their oily layer which causes them to dry up more quickly. The eyelids can appear sore and swollen, the eye can become dry and sore. This is called meibomian gland dysfunction MGD. These symptoms are not usually serious but you may experience discomfort or blurred vision. If you do not treat this condition the glands may stop working and can cause further dry eye problems including blepharitis.
Certain groups of people are more at risk:
but this is a common condition and can affect anyone.
The best treatment is a hot compress to help 'melt' the secretions, followed by massaging the eyelids close to the lash margin to help release the oily tears from the glands. There are a variety of devices/methods to warm the lids:
You can read more in our buying guide 'How to choose a Heat Mask'.
Remember that you only need to warm the lash margin by a few degrees above skin temperature so any treatment you use should feel warm rather than hot. Other treatments that may also help include;
To help prevent symptoms recurring continue with the treatment daily, also massaging your eyelids to help release the natural oils.
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is when the eyelid glands don’t produce enough oil to stop the watery layer of the tears from drying out.
This fact sheet produced by the Association of Optometrists (AOP) helps give you the facts about meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).
Ophthalmologist Mr Myer Mark Yodaiken talks about meibomian gland disease, which affects the oil glands in the eyes and blepharitis or dry eyes.
Discover what happens to the eyes with these two conditions and the role of LipiFlow in emptying the oil glands.