What is meibomian gland disease (MGD) and how is it treated?

  • by Amelia

What is MGD? 

Meibomian Gland Disease is the most common form of eyelid margin disease. The nature of MGD means that in the early stages, you may not even know you have it, but if untreated, MGD can mean you suffer from dry eyes, sore eyes and you may experience inflammation of the eyelid.

But first, what even are the Meibomian Glands? Well, if you don’t know, we’ll tell you. These glands in your eyelids are crucial for lubricating your eyes, so when you suffer any form of blockage, as with MGD, your eyes stop getting the oils they need and you get sore eyes, which may feel dry and inflamed. There are additional symptoms caused by these blockages, which we’ll look at next. 

What happens when the Meibomian glands become blocked? 

When your oil glands become blocked with thickened oil they tend to inflate within the eyelid like a balloon. They can also leak, which can irritate the sounding skin. If a seriously clogged gland is not cleared it can result in permanent changes in the tear film and also dry eyes.

When any of these things start to happen, you’ll notice pain in the eye, or pain in the eyelid and you may also find your eyelids feel hot and look red. Despite MGD not being an infection, it can look similar and this means many people are often prescribed an antibiotic at this point.

When your body realises that the oil is irritating your skin, it reacts by sending cells to the area that form a capsule around the oil that has been leaked out. At this point you may feel or even be able to see a tender lump on the eyelid. Over time, the swelling and the redness will decrease and a discrete eyelid lump may remain that can be felt and often seen. 

How can I treat MGD? 

The fact that you are developing these lumps suggests the oil in your glands is not flowing freely and this is why you’re suffering with eye pain and eye swelling. You might find that a gentle massage of the eyelids, following a hot eye compress (you can do this by using The Eye Doctor and following the heating and application instructions) will help with loosening any blockage in the glands in the eyelids which prevents your eye’s natural lubrication. The wording here is important - massage the eyelid gently. You might be tempted to squeeze or push the lump on your eyelid like a spot, but this is not a good idea - you’ll more than likely cause extra eye pain and potentially damage - resist the temptation. Think gently milking, not popping the eye lump!

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your symptoms and if they worsen or change, you should reach out to your GP or an eye health specialist. 

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