HealthDiseases and Conditions

Dysfunction of meibomian glands

Tiny sebaceous glands, called meibomies, are located on the borders of the eyelids, which come into contact when the eyes are closed. The main function of meibomian glands is the secretion of a special substance that covers the surface of the eyeballs and prevents the evaporation of the water component of tears. The fat layer and water create a tear film.

Tear film is designed to lubricate the surface of the eyes and maintain them in a healthy state. It also affects the clarity of vision. If the water or fat layer becomes thinner, if its quality changes for the worse, there are corresponding symptoms - irritation and blurred vision.

What is the meibomian gland dysfunction?

This term indicates a condition in which the sebaceous glands on the eyelids produce insufficient fat or their secret becomes poor. Often, the holes of the glands suffer from clogging, resulting in the fat layer on the eyeball becoming thinner. Fat, which is released over the clogging, can be grainy or hard. The deterioration of its quality leads to irritation.

Glandular dysfunction is a very common disorder. In the early stages of symptomatology is often absent, but in the absence of adequate treatment, pathology can lead to the development or deterioration of the existing dry eye syndrome or inflammatory process in the eyelids. Meibomian gland is clogged with a thickened secret, and with chronic damage the eyelids lose the ability to produce fat. As a result, irreversible changes occur in the tear film and dry eye syndrome develops.


If for any reason you have suffered meibomian glands, dysfunction can be detected on the basis of the following signs of pathology:

  • dryness;
  • burning;
  • Itching;
  • Viscosity of secretion;
  • Appearance of crusts similar to scabs;
  • Lacrimation;
  • Increased sensitivity to light;
  • Redness of the eyes;
  • Sensation of foreign body in the eye;
  • Chalazion or barley;
  • Periodic impairment of vision.

Risk factors

There are circumstances that contribute to the development of dysfunction of meibomian glands. These are risk factors, which include:

  • Age. Like the dry eye syndrome, dysfunction of the sebaceous glands at the edges of the eyelids is more common in the elderly. According to the results of an independent study involving 233 people with an average age of 63 years (91% of participants were male), at least one sign of inflammation of the meibomian gland was found in 59% of the participants.
  • Ethnic origin. The inhabitants of Asia, including the population of Thailand, Japan and China, are most prone to this pathology. In these states, a violation was found in 46-69% of the people participating in the research, while in the developed English-speaking countries (USA, Australia), symptoms of dysfunction were found only in 4-20%.
  • Use of cosmetics for the eyes. Padding, pencils, shadows and other makeup tools can cause clogging of the sebaceous glands. Particularly at risk of women who do not pay enough attention to purifying the eyelids from cosmetics. The most obvious risk factor is a night's sleep without first removing the make-up.
  • Wearing contact lenses. Some researchers suggest that dysfunction of the sebaceous glands can be associated with the regular use of contact lenses. If symptoms appear, the improvement does not occur even after six months after stopping the wearing of lenses. However, this risk factor is currently considered conditional, since the evidence base has not yet been collected to the end.


Inflammation of the meibomian gland is treated primarily hygienic procedures for purifying the eyelids and eyelashes from dead cells, excess fats and constantly accumulating bacteria. Skin eyelids are extremely sensitive, so specialists are urged to observe the utmost care and care, regardless of the chosen method of treatment.

Warm compresses

Heating the edges of the eyelids increases the secretion and helps to melt the dried up fatty crusts that clog the meibomian glands. Treatment is carried out with the help of a warm (not too hot), a clean wet cloth or tissue napkin, which is applied to the eyelids for about four minutes. Compress heats the fat and improves its outflow, thereby preventing further clogging of the glands. If you are concerned about the symptoms of dysfunction, repeat this procedure twice a day. If your goal - prevention of violations, once a day is enough.


Massaging the eyelids can be done directly during the application of warm compresses. Gently press your fingertips to the edge of the eyelid, starting immediately behind the line of the eyelashes. Slide your finger from the bottom up to the lower eyelid and at the same time look up, then draw them over the upper eyelid from top to bottom and look down. Excessive abuse of massage can lead to irritation, so take the greatest possible care.

Peeling of eyelids

With dysfunction of the meibomian glands of the eyelids, light scrubbing helps to remove excess sebum from the sensitive surface, potentially harmful bacteria and accumulations of dead cells. Use a cotton swab or a warm cloth wound around the fingertips. Gently rub the eyelids (both lower and upper) parallel to the line of the eyelashes. As a scrub, apply a mild soap or diluted baby shampoo (a few drops on a small glass of clean water) - any substance that does not cause irritation or burning sensation is suitable. If you are not sure of the correctness of your choice, consult your doctor well in advance. Peeling eyelids can be done once a day.

Omega-3 fatty acids: linseed oil and fish oil

Some patients with similar disorders note improvement after inclusion in the diet of foods and dietary supplements with a high content of omega-3 fatty acids. The latter in many ways contribute to improving the quality and consistency of the secret secreted by the meibomian glands.

Oil from flax seeds and cod liver oil are excellent natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil is absolutely safe not only for adults, but also for young children; If your child has dysfunction of meibomian glands and he has reached the age of 1-2 years, give him one teaspoon of oil per day. Older children can increase the dosage to one tablespoon each day. Oil from flax seeds can be safely mixed with food products - for example, with hot porridge, juice or smoothies. Do not use it concomitantly with drugs that help liquefy blood or reduce sugar levels.

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