Other causes of meibomitis include acne rosacea and blepharitis.
Along the margin of the lids there are a series of small sebaceous glands called the meibomian glands. They create and distribute an oily substance called lipids. Meibomian gland secretions help keep the eye moist and protect the tear film from evaporation. Upon blinking the upper lid comes down presses on the oil and pulls a sheet of oil upwards coating the tear layer beneath to keep it from evaporating. Meibomitis refers to dysfunction and inflammation of these glands. Oil production by the glands decreases and the oils that are produced become thicker (looking like toothpaste). The reduction in the quantity and quality of the oily layer causes the tears to evaporate more rapidly and this leads to symptoms of dryness burning and irritation especially upon awakening.
The number one reason for dysfunction of the glands is because they get clogged up. Although there are many reasons why the glands can become clogged one common cause may be hormonal changes - changes in estrogen levels can cause a thickening of the oils. It has been suggested that changes in estrogen levels also cause a proliferation of staphylococcal bacteria that normally thrive on the ocular surface. These bacteria invade the meibomian glands and colonize there. The double trouble caused by the thickening of the oils plus the bacteria gradually decreases the secretion of oils from the glands.
Other causes of meibomitis include acne rosacea (a skin disease where blood vessels of the face enlarge resulting in a flushed appearance) and blepharitis (the inflammation of the eyelids associated with a bacterial infection or generalized skin condition).
The following is a list of possible symptoms:
- swollen/red eyelid margins
- dryness and burning
- blurred vision
- frequent styes
Meibomitis can be diagnosed during your regular eye examination so there are no special tests required. Depending on the severity of the condition treatment usually consists of both topical and oral antibiotics (usually tetracycline doxycycline or erythromycin) to help break down the thickened lipid secretions. Moreover in order to help restore the function of the meibomian gland you have to keep the oily secretions from solidifying. Warm and moist compresses used 2-3 times a day help melt the lipid “plug” and allow the antibiotics to penetrate the meibomian glands. Lightly massaging the lids with the warm compress will also help to express the solidified oils out of the duct. Another technique in the treatment of meibomitis is the daily use of special eyelid scrubs to reduce debris on the lids and help unclog pores.
Dietary Supplements to help treat Meibomitis
Current research about diet supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids indicates that they can stabilize inflammation and help restore normal meibomian oils. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that your body can’t produce – your body must obtain them from your diet. Unfortunately the North American diet is deficient in Omega-3s. The two best sources for Omega-3 fatty acids are fish oil and flaxseed oil. Studies have shown that people with meibomitis when given Omega-3 supplements experience an improvement in the oil layer covering their tear films. Moreover they decrease the inflammation of meibomitis which results in relief from eye irritation upon waking in the morning.