You probably have never even heard of meibomian gland dysfunction, but if you suffer from dry eyes and the various symptoms associated with dry eyes, there is a good chance that you are one of those that suffer from this ailment and are a prime candidate for meibomian gland dysfunction treatment.
What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)?
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is one of the most prevalent ailments that ophthalmologists diagnose. In more than 2/3 of cases of patients suffering from the common symptoms of dry eyes, meibomian gland dysfunction is to blame. Also referred to as posterior blepharitis, meibomian gland dysfunction causes most of those who suffer from it intense discomfort, reducing quality of life and having detrimental effects on everything from how well someone does in school or work to how and when one socializes.
When you suffer from the symptoms of blepharitis, meibomian gland dysfunction is likely the cause. But what exactly is the meibomian gland and how does it cause the symptoms of blepharitis?
Meibomian glands are located at the edge of the eyelids, in the part of the eye known as the tarsal plate. The meibomian gland is responsible for secreting an oil film of lipids which cover the outer most surface of the eyes. The purpose of this lipid layer is to keep the layer of tears which rests beneath it from evaporating in dry environments.
When someone suffers from meibomian gland dysfunction, this oily shield of lipids is not produced sufficiently and the tear layer evaporates more quickly than it might otherwise do, forcing the lacrimal gland to work overtime in order to keep the eye moisturized. Unfortunately, the tear layer is rarely able to keep up with this level of production, and the eye inevitably dries out unless other preventative measures are utilized (e.g., eye drops are applied).
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Symptoms
Many meibomian gland dysfunction symptoms are fairly obvious. The most obvious are those associated with having extremely dry eyes:
- Feeling of dryness
- Itchy, irritable eyes
- Red eyes
- Burning sensation in the eyes
- Contact lens problems/discomfort
But there are other meibomian gland dysfunction symptoms that are less obvious:
- Watery eye (because the lacrimal glands are working overtime)
- The phantom foreign body feeling—feeling as if there is something stuck in your eyelid as a result usually of eyelid inflammation.
- Eyelids may also feel heavy or feel glued together when waking.
- Eye strain and tiring, especially if you have a lot of screen time or reading time for work or school, and especially at the end of the day.
- Sensitivity to daylight or any bright light.
- Problems with vision and focus (a sign of extreme dry eyes)
In combination and in extreme cases these symptoms can have major effects on a person’s well-being, keeping people from performing at full potential at work and school, and limiting his or her ability to enjoy warm summer days or go into air conditioned environments (because of the evaporative effect of air conditioning).
Often those who suffer from this condition have spent a long time self-treating themselves by using eye drops or gels that keep their eyes somewhat moisturized. It is often the case, however, that as one grows older the problem worsens making the amount of eye drops necessary to alleviate symptoms even greater.
In some cases, a dry eye sufferer may have sought help from an ophthalmologist who prescribed a treatment course such as Artificial Tears or an ointment. These treat the symptoms but the problem persists.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Causes
There are various possible causes of meibomian gland dysfunction and they vary from individual to individual. In many cases of meibomian gland dysfunction, it is simply the result of age. As we age our meibomian glands will sometimes go into stasis, producing less of the fatty lipid shield than it did before.
Often the causes of meibomian gland dysfunction have to do with a blockage of the meibomian glands by mucus or other materials.
Sometimes the problem has more to do with damage to eye or the nerves in the eye (as sometimes occurs with Lasik surgery for example).
Environmental causes, such as living in a dry climate, or spending a great deal of time in heated or air conditioned spaces can acerbate the problems associated with meibomian gland dysfunction as well.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Treatment
Although there are various remedies for meibomian gland dysfunction, such as simply applying eye drops or gels throughout the day in order to keep the eye artificially moisturized, the most effective treatment for meibomian gland dysfunction is the LipiFlow Dry Eye Treatment. Through LipiFlow treatment, meibomian gland dysfunction can be successfully mitigated in roughly 80% of cases.
LipiFlow treatment is still relatively new, having only been approved in the United States as of 2009. LipiFlow Dry Eye Treatment, however, has been a long time in developing. This dry eye treatment was developed by Dr. Donald Korb who developed the LipiFlow treatment through a quarter century of research into the causes and treatment for those suffering from extreme dry eyes.
Using this research Dr. Korb founded TearScience in 2005 and with his cofounder began to standardize his approach and perfect his LipiFlow and LipiView devices so that other ophthalmologists and eye specialists could help their patients overcome the debilitating effects of extreme dry eyes.
The LipiFlow Dry Eye Treatment
So how does the LipiFlow Dry Eye Treatment work?
For cases of dry eyes, treatment begins with proper diagnosis. Although most cases of dry eyes result from meibomian gland dysfunction, this is not the only possible cause. Dry eye symptoms may also arise from problems with the lacrimal gland, for example; or can be the result of peripheral conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, a condition of the skin that results in scaling and flaking of the skin (including on the eyelids).
In order to determine whether your dry eye symptoms result from meibomian gland disorder, your eye doctor will conduct a few tests. Most likely these test will include:
A Schirmer Test—This test measures how moist your eyes are by inserting strips of filter paper in the conjunctival sac of the lower eye and then measuring the production of tears. You simply sit with your eyes closed for 5 minutes. (Sometimes your doctor will give you a topical anesthetic when conducting this procedure if there is the chance that your eye will become irritated by the filter paper. This is less because of pain or discomfort—which is very mild—then due to the possibility that the eye will produce an unnatural amount of tearing because of the irritation.)
Specular Reflection—Your eye doctor may also use a LipiView Ocular Surface Interferometer to observe the consistency of your tear film and determine whether it is of the proper thickness and consistency.
If these tests indicate that the problem is the result of meibomian gland dysfunction, then you physician will recommend that you continue with the LipiFlow Dry Eye Treatment. This is a short procedure taking only 12 minutes for each eye and causing only minor discomfort.
A topical anesthetic may be applied but often is unnecessary. A LipiFlow eyepiece will then be carefully fitted to the eye, and you will close your eye over it to hold it place. Then when the LipiFlow device is turned on it will deliver mild warmth and pressure to the eyelids in a massaging fashion that will help to unplug the meibomian glands. The treatment is precisely programmed to give you optimal results.
It only takes about 12 minutes total and allows you to go right back to your day without any recovery period.
The results can be pretty amazing. In most cases, patients begin to notice a difference just after their LipiFlow Dry Eyes treatment since their unclogged meibomian glands start secreting lipids again fairly quickly. In 4 of 5 patients the results continue to improve up to one year after the procedure.
Where Can you Receive LipiFlow Dry Eye Treatments
Because LipiFlow is still relatively new, not all ophthalmologists have adopted it yet. There are many facilities that perform this procedure (as you can find by simply Googling “LipiFlow dry eye treatment” plus your city name).
If you live in California, for example, one of the main providers of LipiFlow treatments are the Dry Eye Therapy facilities. They have them throughout the state from LA to SF.
These facilities offer expert care from caring eye-care professionals trained in all the ins and outs of the LipiFlow equipment, so that your procedure gets done efficiently and well.
The Dry Eyes Treatment for YOU!
You should not have to suffer from extreme dry eyes. If your eye drops are your constant companions or if your eyes can’t handle the light or reading is too difficult because of how irritated your eyes become at the end of the day, you should definitely find out if meibomian eye gland dysfunction treatment is for you.