Much research has been performed on Dry Eye causes in the past 20 years. It is now known that, in most patients who present Dry Eye symptoms, tear production is not the primary problem. For the overwhelming majority of patients with Dry Eye symptoms, blocked Meibomian glands in the eyelids have been shown to affect 86% of patients with dry eye.
This is known as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction commonly referred to as MGD. MGD occurs when there is compromise to the function and/or structure of the Meibomian glands. These glands, located in the eyelids produce the protective oily (lipid) layer of the tear film. This oil helps protect the surface of the eye from disease and prevents the watery part of the tears from evaporating when your eyes are open. Without these oils, the eyes become more susceptible to the negative effects that dry climates, air conditioning, computer use, reading and other daily activities can have on the long-term health of our eyes.
Detecting MGD at its earliest stages is imperative to ensure long-term tear film health and avoid Dry Eye symptoms.
Today, there are various tests that can be performed during your eye exam to assess Meibomian gland function and structure. Assessing Meibomian gland function and structure is essential to help your doctor determine an appropriate course of action.
When your eye care professional is checking Meibomian gland function, the goal is to evaluate if the glands are secreting the right amount of oil and if the oil is of the right consistency. An assessment of gland function requires your eye doctor to apply gentle pressure over the eyelids to observe gland secretion. The pressure is applied while you are seated at the slit lamp, so the doctor can view the gland secretions under magnification and causes minimal discomfort.