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Meibomian gland dysfunction

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a common condition that affects two out of three people with dry eyes.1

Meibomian Glands and your tears

Your tears are made up of water and oil. A layer of water keeps your eyes moist and helps to wash away debris. Sitting on top of the water is an oily outer layer which stops the watery layer from evaporating. The oil is produced by your Meibomian glands which sit at the edges of your eyelids.

In MGD the Meibomian glands get blocked and cannot make enough oil to cover your eye surface. As a result, the watery layer can easily evaporate, causing dry eye symptoms.




The symptoms of MGD, which usually affect both eyes, include:

  • Dry or sore eyes that get worse as the day goes on2
  • itchy, burning or gritty eyes2
  • red or inflamed eyelids2
  • greasy or crusty eyelids that may stick together in the morning2
  • sensitivity to bright light (photophobia)2


Treatment options

If you experience persistent symptoms you should visit your optician or GP for advice. Treatment options include eye drops for lubrication, treatment of any underlying condition and medications to treat inflammation. In addition your optician may recommend daily eye hygiene to help keep your MGD symptoms under control. This includes the following 3-part routine once or twice a day3

Warm compress

Placing a warm compress heated to 40° Celsius on your eyes for a minimum of five minutes helps to melt the oil that has blocked your Meibomian glands 3,4. A compress at a lower temperature will likely not retain sufficient heat for the required time to be effective and a higher temperature may pose a risk to the user4.


Gently massaging your eyelids helps to push the oils out of your Meibomian glands.3 Your optician can advise you on the correct massage technique.


Cleaning your eyelids removes any excess oil, skin flakes, crusts, bacteria or debris that might have built up around your eyes.3


  1. Korb DR, Blackie CA. “Dry Eye” Is the Wrong Diagnosis for Millions. Optometry & Vision Science. 2015 Sep 1;92(9):350-4.
  2. NHS Choices. Dry eye syndrome. http>// Available at: Accessed 6 June 2017
  3. Nichols KK, et al. The international workshop on Meibomian gland dysfunction:executive summary.Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2011;52:1922-9.
  4. Jones L, et al. TFOS DEWS II Management and Therapy Report. The Ocular Surface Journal. 2017;15(3):575-628.

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