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Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD)

What is it?

Your oil glands have gone on strike!

The meibomian glands are located in the eyelids. Secretions from these glands comprise the lipid (oily) layer of the tear film which is so crucial in preventing rapid evaporation of the tears. Failure of these glands to produce or secrete oil - due to chronic blockage, thickening of the meibum, etc. will affect the quality and stability of the tear film, which in turn will produce classic dry eye symptoms even in people whose dry eye test results appear normal. A TBUT should show whether the oil layer of the tear film is adequate or not.

Meibomian gland dysfunction is quite common and unfortunately it often goes undiagnosed. Even when diagnosed is often not treated or is not treated effectively until it has become chronic or severe.

MGD may be inflammatory (often as a result of blepharitis) or atrophic.

May be Confused With

"Dry eye" (in the aqueous deficiency sense): Many people who have dry eye symptoms are treated as though the cause is aqueous deficiency, e.g. with artificial tear supplementation and punctal plugs, when in fact their primary problem is meibomian gland dysfunction. Some researchers believe that up to 70% of chronic dry eye may actually be MGD, not "classic" dry eye.

Blepharitis: Blepharitis is related because chronic blepharitis will cause chronic meibomian gland dysfunction, which in turn will cause dry eye symptoms. But blepharitis should not be confused with meibomian gland dysfunction. Keep in mind that you may clear up the bleph and still have MGD.


Typical treatments for MGD may include, depending on specifics of the condition:

  • warm compresses (to liquefy any secretions that have solidified and are clogging the glands)
  • lid scrubs
  • oral antibiotics (such as doxycycline)
  • Omega 3 supplementation
  • topical antibiotic ointments


Thanks to The Dry Eye Center for content used in the creation of this webpage. ©2011 - All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.