The Meibomian Gland Dysfunction is a common ailment that, probably, happened to everyone at least once in their life. The reason is simple. Your eyes need moisture as well as lubrication to remain wet. When the small glands in your eyes that make sure that happens, malfunction, you get the meibomian gland dysfunction. Evidently, this is the easy way of explaining everything. Let’s take a look at a few more details.
What Is the Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
As mentioned in the introduction, our eyes need moisture and some type of lubricant so that they can work properly. The eyelids need to be as mobile as possible, and the eyeballs themselves need to be able to move at will. The eye also needs to be able to wash away all the debris and dust that comes into it.
The Meibomian are a type of glands that one can find in the eyelids themselves. They get their name from a German doctor called Heinrich Meibom, who discovered them and made some drawings in 1666. Every person has approximately 25 to 40 such glands in the upper eyelid, as well as 20 to 30 in the lower one.
Their primary job is to secrete oils that help lubricate the eye. The secretion goes right on the surface of the eyeball and helps it in all the ways we’ve detailed above. The oils also keep the tears from drying up quicker than they should.
Taking all this info into consideration, one can easily deduce what the meibomian gland dysfunction is. Here is how specialists define it. The Meibomian gland dysfunction happens when one or more of these glands have an obstruction which keeps it from secreting its oils. The lack of these lipid lubricants seeping into the tears makes them dry too fast.
Consequently, the Meibomian gland dysfunction is the leading cause of the dry eye syndrome. It is involved in 75% of people with dry eye syndrome. Apart from that, it can link to another eye disease, called blepharitis. Here is a quick look at both of them.
The dry eye syndrome has consequences which go from a subtle, yet constant irritation of the eyes to inflammation and even scarring of the eye’s front surface. Here are a few of the symptoms linked to it.
- A burning sensation in the eye.
- Heavy eyes
- A sensation of fatigue of the eye
- Sore eyes
- Sensitivity to light or photophobia
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- The sensation of forever having something in your eye.
This dry eye syndrome, even though it doesn’t sound like much, can lead to permanent damage to your eye, if left untreated.
Blepharitis is another common disease which means the inflammation of the eyelids. It has associations with the bacterial infection of the eye, the symptoms of the dry eyes which we’ve detailed above and acne rosacea, a skin condition.
The disease has two main forms, as follows.
- Anterior blepharitis, which affects the outside of the lid, meaning the part with the eyelashes.
- Posterior blepharitis, the one which medicine links to our meibomian gland dysfunction or the dry eye syndrome.
Risk Factors Involved in the Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
When it comes to the risk of developing the meibomian gland dysfunction, there are particular factors that can lead you there. First of all, there’s age. All the individuals over the age of 40 have a much higher chance of getting it than the younger ones.
The second risk factor is related to your ethnicity. The populations of China, Japan, and Thailand have meibomian gland dysfunction in a staggering proportion of 69 percent. If we were to compare this percentage to other ethnicities, we would find out that only 30 percent of Caucasian people in the US and Australia suffers from the disorder.
The third risk factor is wearing makeup. Eyeliner, as well as eyeshadow and kohl pencils, can obstruct the openings of the meibomian glands. You are at even further risk of developing the syndrome if you do not clean your makeup very thoroughly at night before you go to sleep.
Contact lenses are also on the risk factor list. However, the reason why we put it last on our list is that scientists have not proven this to be true and exact. They do believe there is a link, but cannot postulate this truth until they know for sure. Researchers will have to undergo further studies.
Symptoms of the Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Now that we know what it is and what causes it, it’s time we take a look at some of its symptoms. Therefore, you will know what you are up against when you feel or see the first signs.
- As weird as it may sound, one of the first symptoms to tell you that you might be suffering from this gland dysfunction is watery eyes. The reason is that without the oils which keep the tears from drying up too fast, they do dry up. Therefore, the tear ducts strive to produce more and more salty discharge to keep the entire area lubricated. Hence, the watery eyes.
- Swelling and redness of the eyelids.
- A burning or gritty sensation in both eyes.
- Eyelids that itch all the time.
- Flaking skin all around the eye area.
- Getting a crust on your eyelashes after you sleep.
- Being sensitive to light.
- Getting sties a lot more frequently than normal. This symptom happens because one or more of the glands has been sealed shut. Therefore, it visibly swells up.
- Blinking in an excessive manner.
- Having your eyelashes grow in an abnormal way or even misdirected ones.
- Losing your eyelashes altogether because of the lack of moisture.
- Having dried up eyelashes all the time.
There is one thing you should know, though. Just like with any other ailment out there, these symptoms are not set in stone. Neither is their power. Some individuals experience only a few in the list and mild discomfort. On the other hand, others get them all and feel very badly about their entire vision area.
This idea translates into the fact that you must visit your ophthalmologist from the early signs. The doctor is the only one able to tell you if you, indeed, have the disease or not. The exam can be as simple as having the doctor look at the surface of your eye under a very bright light or a bit more intrusive. The latter involves the doctor taking a sample of your eye excretions using a cotton swab. This specimen will end up in the lab for testing.
Treating the Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Once you receive the diagnosis that you have this syndrome, your doctor can proceed to recommend you a number of treatments. For example, you might need to wash your eyes on a regular basis with a warm and clean washcloth. There are some known cases in which this is, in fact, the only thing that helps the patient cope with and treat his meibomian gland dysfunction to some extent.
You might also receive some antibiotics, depending on the type of syndrome that you have or depending on what caused it. Steroids are yet another solution for that, which will reduce your swelling and inflammation. Both of these treatments can come in the shape of creams that you can apply locally to your eyelids or as pills.
Another proposed treatment from your doctor might be artificial tears in case you suffer from severe dry eyes syndrome. If you so happen to use contact lenses, then you might need to take them off as long as you are following the treatment. The same goes for makeup, which you will have to discontinue using.
Here are a few words on the makeup topic. When you buy it, it’s best not to buy cheap, no-name brands. They contain a lot of chemicals that will not only cause the meibomian gland dysfunction but may also lead to further complications. Try to buy the brands of makeup that have as many natural ingredients and pigments in them as possible, such as coconut oil, cocoa powder or cinnamon.
If the underlying cause for your meibomian gland dysfunction is another malady, such as intense acne or rosacea, then your doctor will first need to cure the cause. He or she will prescribe treatment for these diseases prior to curing your eyes themselves.
Preventing the Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Before we can get into the concept of preventing this syndrome, you should know that there are some instances in which you will not be able to do so. One example is the acne or rosacea we have detailed above. For the rest, however, there are things you can do to make sure you do not develop this syndrome.
For instance, proper hygiene habits will keep the bacteria from multiplying in your eye region and, thusly, prevent the syndrome itself. You can stay away from chocolate, for example, which always worsens the symptoms. This also goes for people who have had the disease in the past and now want to steer clear of it.
The most important thing you must take with you is that the meibomian gland dysfunction will not affect your vision whatsoever. However, its symptoms are regularly very annoying, and they will prompt you to visit your physician.