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How To Unclog Meibomian Glands?

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A person pulling down their right eyelid with their finger to show their inflamed meibomian glands

Clogged meibomian glands can occur for a number of reasons, resulting in dry, irritated eyes. When your eyes can’t produce enough adequate tears, your eyes can feel incredibly uncomfortable. 

Your meibomian glands are responsible for producing a special oil that prevents your eyes from dehydrating too quickly. When these glands are affected, your eyes are the ones that suffer most.

The best way to address discomfort caused by dry eye symptoms is to visit your optometrist.

How Do Meibomian Glands Become Clogged?

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a common eye condition that affects the tiny glands in your eyelids that produce the oil layer of your tears. This oil is called “meibum” and forms one of the 3 layers of your tear film.

Tears are made of water, mucus, and meibum, and this fluid keeps your eyes hydrated. Meibum prevents the water from evaporating too quickly. MGD can occur if there are issues with the oil or the glands.

MGD signs and symptoms are very similar to those of dry eye:

  • Itching or burning eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Redness & watering 
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Blurry vision 

Causes

MGD most commonly occurs as a result of aging. Studies show that 59% of adults with an average age of 63 had at least one sign of MGD. 

MGD can also occur as a result of an underlying condition, such as dry eye or blepharitis

Some other factors, such as wearing contact lenses or makeup, can increase your risk of developing MGD. This is why it’s important to take regular breaks from your contacts and always remove your makeup at night. 

Diagnosis

Your optometrist can diagnose eye conditions like MGD. There are a few things your eye doctor may examine to determine whether or not you have MGD.

Your eye doctor may gently push on your eyelid to test your meibomian glands. This allows your optometrist to see the quality of the oil, a big indicator for MGD. They may also examine your tear film stability and whether or not you have a sufficient amount of tears.

They may perform a tear breakup time test (TBUT) to see how quickly your tears break up, allowing your eye to dry out. This test uses dye on the eye and special light to make your tears glow. This shows the doctor how quickly the tears break up.

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye disease is a common eye condition that occurs when tears don’t properly lubricate the eyes. Signs and symptoms of dry eye are identical to the signs and symptoms of MGD, as well as:

  • Eye fatigue
  • Stringy mucus in/around eyes
  • Difficulty with nighttime driving
  • Inability to wear contact lenses

Dry eye is uncomfortable and irritable. Many environmental factors can affect dry eye, such as air conditioning or too much screen time. Dry eye almost always occurs as a result of dysfunction in the eye’s ability to produce proper tears, including MGD.

Treatment Options

To unclog the meibomian glands and resolve dry eye, there are a variety of treatments available. If your dry eye symptoms are manageable, you may wish to try some home remedies. 

These home remedies can be beneficial when paired with treatment from your optometrist. They include:

  • Applying a warm compress to your lids for 4 – 5 minutes 
  • Gently massaging the area (can use compress)
  • Scrubbing the lids lightly with diluted cleanser
  • Using over-the-counter lipid-containing emulsion drops
  • Consuming omega-3 essential fatty acid supplements 

While these remedies can help provide temporary relief, it’s likely you’ll need additional treatment to truly resolve your MGD or dry eye. 

Prescription Eye Drops

Depending on the severity of your MGD, your optometrist may prescribe you medicated eye drops. This includes:

  • Steroid drops to help relieve inflammation & increase oil flow
  • Restasis eye drops to increase tear production
  • Oral Vibramycin (doxycycline) as an antibiotic
  • AzaSite (topical ophthalmic azithromycin) as an antibiotic
A woman undergoing IPL therapy to help treat her dry eye

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy

Intense pulsed light therapy is a light-based, non-invasive treatment for dry eye. 

By using pulses of light, inflammation that is typically associated with dry eye disease is reduced, tear break-up time is improved, and meibomian gland functionality increases. 

This application can significantly relieve dry eye and MGD symptoms.

Other Procedures

There are a variety of treatments available to relieve symptoms of dry eye and MGD, so it’s best to discuss your specific symptoms and needs with your optometrist

Some other recommended treatments include:

  • Lid debridement 
  • LipiFlow
  • Scleral lenses
  • Punctal plugs

When to See Your Optometrist

If you experience major dry eye symptoms that impact your ability to perform daily tasks, it’s time to see your optometrist. 

MGD and dry eye shouldn’t dictate your life. Contact our team to book an appointment and find relief sooner. 

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Dr. Turner

Written by Dr. Charles J. Turner, OD

Dr. Turner is extremely proud to be Daniel Island’s first optometrist, a distinction that has brought him great respect throughout the community. As a therapeutically licensed optometrist, Dr. Turner provides his patients with multifaceted care.

His practice has a unique approach thanks to his diverse blend of experience. He completed internships at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS, Montrose Veterans Hospital in Montrose, NY, and Huntington Veterans Hospital in Huntington, WV. These experiences have given Dr. Turner the confidence and ability to treat eyes of all ages and stages. Dr. Turner graduated with a BS in biology from Virginia Tech and received his Doctor of Optometry degree from Indiana University School of Optometry in Bloomington, IN.

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