What is Meibomian gland dysfunction?

Normal tears comprise three layers: an oily layer, a watery layer, and a layer of mucous. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) happens when the eyelid glands fail to produce sufficient quantities of the oil that prevents the watery layer of your tears from drying out.

Meibomian glands are set inside the eyelids with openings at the edge of the eyelids. When those glands become blocked, the oily layer that prevents tears from drying can’t be released. The result is that watery tears dry more quickly than usual, making your eyes dry and sore. While MGD isn’t serious, it can cause discomfort and blurred vision. Importantly, if left untreated, the glands may stop working and lead to Dry Eye. At Taank, we often see patients with a mix of MGD, Dry Eye, and Blepharitis.

Who's at risk of developing Meibomian gland dysfunction?

MGD is a common eye condition that can affect anybody. It often occurs in women, patients over 50, those with diabetes, and people with oily skin.


What are the symptoms of Meibomian gland dysfunction?

Look out for sore, swollen eyelids that occur when the Meibomian glands are blocked. Your eyes may feel dry, itchy, or as though you have grit in them. They may also be red and watery, which leads to blurred vision.

Treating Meibomian gland dysfunction in Cambridge

Alleviating the symptoms of MGD requires hot compresses to release the oily tears from the glands. Soak a flannel or cotton pad in hot (not boiling) water, close your eyes, and press the cloth against your eyelids. Wet the cloth again and repeat the process for a minimum of five minutes. Do this each day until the condition improves. Massaging your eyelids also helps to release tears.

‘Heat bags’ are available specifically for this condition and are often easier to use than a hot flannel.

Ask an expert

If you’re diagnosed with Meibomian gland dysfunction, don’t worry; just ask your optometrist for advice on treating the condition and preventing the glands from blocking in the future. If you live in Cambridge and have questions about MGD or any other eye condition, book an eye exam today or call us for more information.