About Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)

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:

  • women 50+
  • diabetics
  • people who suffer with oily skin conditions

but this is a common condition and can affect anyone. 


What can help?

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:

  • Blephasteam
    A unique, premium device that creates a soothing moist, heat environment around the eyes. Connected to the mains, the device is pre-warmed and moist pads inserted. When it is ready for use it is placed over the eyes and the 10 minute treatment cycle can be started. During this cycle the Blephasteam is kept at a consistent temperature, ensuring a precise treatment as the heat warms the eyelids and water evaporates from the moist pads.

  • Heat mask
    There are microwaveable, oven or instant chemically activated versions which are warmed before treatment. Be sure to check the specific heating instruction for your product as they vary. Close your eyes and place the mask over them. Leave in place for around 10 minutes. The mask will slowly cool over time, but should provide sufficient heat for this time.

  • Face cloth/cotton wool pad
    The most basic way but if nothing else is available still an option. Using a face cloth or cotton wool pad soaked in hot (not boiling water) water. Close your eyes and place the cloth or cotton wool over them. Leave in place for around 10 minutes. With this method the temperate of the cloth/pads will drop off very quickly but you should receive some benefit.

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;

  • Lid cleansers such as impregnated wipes, gels or solutions combined with mild lid massages (to squeeze out any solid secretions that clog the glands). You can read more in our buying guide 'How to select the best Lid Care product'.
  • Eye drops that contain a lipid element to help replace the missing top layer of the tears. You can read more in our buying guide 'How to choose Eye Drops'.
  • Omega 3 supplements to improve the quality of meibum. You can read more in our buying guide 'Supplements for Dry Eyes'.
  • Anti-bacterial foam and wipes with tea tree oil.
  • Manuka honey drops or gel.
  • Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy an inpractice treatment that delivers high-intensity flashes of non-laser light.
  • LipiFlow or MiBoFlo inpractice treatments that warm and/or massage the lids.
  • Cyclosporin an immunomodulating therapy offered in some countries.
  • Topical or oral antibiotics are sometimes necessary in severe cases.

To help prevent symptoms recurring continue with the treatment daily, also massaging your eyelids to help release the natural oils. 

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) videos and downloads


What is meibomian gland dysfunction?

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).

MGD and Blepharitis

What is MGD and blepharitis?

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.

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