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Woman with Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

Everything You Need to Know About Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

If your eyes itch, burn, sting, look red, or you have a constant feeling of something being lodged in your eye, you may have a condition called meibomian ("my-BOH-mee-an") gland dysfunction, or MGD. This condition is the leading cause of dry eye syndrome.

Patients in the Richmond Hill area suffering from meibomian gland dysfunction: if you suffer from any of these symptoms or think you might have MGD, contact the Richmond Hill Optometric Clinic Dry Eye Center. Dr. Radhika Chawla can help you with the long-term relief you need.

What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

Our tears are made up of three components: the lipid (oil) layer, the aqueous (water) layer, and the mucus (sticky) layer. These components work in unison to lubricate and coat the eyes, keeping them moist and comfortable.

Your meibomian glands control the lipids in the eye (meibum), which combine with water and mucus in the eye area to create a thin film that consistently lubricates your eyes. Meibum is an essential part of your eye’s makeup as it prevents the evaporation of the eye's tear film.

Meibomian gland dysfunction occurs when the meibomian glands fail to provide enough meibum. Various factors can trigger this and cause the tear film to evaporate at a quicker rate, leading the eyes to feel dry and uncomfortable.

What Are the Symptoms of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

Depending on your specific case, your symptoms may be mild or severe, quick or long-lasting.

The most common symptoms of MGD include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Burning and dry sensation
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Watery eyes
  • Red, sore, and gritty eyes
  • Crusty or sticky eyelids

The increased use of air conditioning or heating systems in the summer and winter months may intensify symptoms. Humid climates, extreme temperatures, and dusty and windy conditions may also aggravate eye dryness and itchiness.

What are the Causes of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction? 

  • Age: MGD tends to manifest in older people, particularly in women during and after menopause
  • Taking certain medications: particularly retinoic acid (acne treatment), HRT (hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women), antidepressants, antihistamines, and anti-androgen medication (used to treat prostatic hypertrophy)
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Pregnancy
  • Wearing contact lenses for extended periods
  • Immune system disorders: atopic rosacea, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome

Excessive screen time has also been linked to the development of MGD. Staring at a screen such as your TV, smartphone, computer, or tablet, causes you to blink less frequently. Blinking naturally moisturizes your eyes and by doing so, clears any small particles that may have accidentally lodged in your eye. Less frequent blinking results in dryer eyes, which can harm the long-term ability of your meibomian glands to function properly.

What are the Solutions for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

Treatments for meibomian gland dysfunction range from self-administered to practitioner-administered treatments and typically involve a few methods, such as artificial tears, heat application, and manual gland expression. Dr. Radhika Chawla usually suggests applying warm compresses over your eyelids as a first course of action. This gently opens the clogged glands and loosens the oil that may have accumulated. Warm compresses can provide temporary relief.

Further therapies used to manage MGD include omega-3 supplementation, topical antibiotics, oral tetracyclines to reduce the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines, corticosteroids, or topical cyclosporine.

People with MGD commonly purchase over-the-counter eye drops to lubricate their eyes. Unfortunately, these drops tend to provide only transient relief because, without an adequate layer of meibomian gland oil, the liquid from the drops simply evaporates off of the eye.  Dr. Radhika Chawla at Richmond Hill Optometric Clinic Dry Eye Center can recommend the appropriate eye drops or treatment for your dry eye case to improve your eye comfort levels.

Think You Have MGD? We Can Help

If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms or conditions, reach out to the Richmond Hill Optometric Clinic Dry Eye Center. Based on the degree of your condition, symptoms, and lifestyle, Dr. Radhika Chawla will recommend the best course of treatment for you.

Richmond Hill Optometric Clinic Dry Eye Center serves patients from in and around Richmond Hill, Markham, North York, and Vaughn and throughout Ontario.


“I went to the Richmond Hill Optometric Clinic Dry Eye Center, and everyone there was professional and courteous.  Dr. Radhika Chawla did a thorough evaluation and treatment. I’m happy to say that my eyes feel comfortable, and my vision is back to how it was before the condition began.”


Jennifer P. Craig, Yen-Heng Chen, Philip R. K. Turnbull; Prospective Trial of Intense Pulsed Light for the Treatment of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2015;56(3):1965-1970. doi: 10.1167/iovs.14-15764.

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