Vivid Eye Care | Cranston Market and Meadows Mile | Calgary
356 Cranston Rd SE #1020 Calgary AB T3M 0S9 (403) 724-0101
(587) 323-4302

Calgary, AB |403.724.0101

What Is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a prevalent eye condition that affects the tear film balance required for healthy vision. Characterized by the malfunctioning of the meibomian glands, which are the glands that produce the oil layer in tears, MGD can lead to various symptoms, such as dryness, irritation, and blurred vision. 

Understanding MGD is crucial for maintaining overall eye health, especially for those at higher risk due to age or pre-existing eye conditions. Your eye doctor can diagnose meibomian gland dysfunction with an eye exam and provide treatment solutions for symptom relief. 

The Role of Meibomian Glands in Eye Health

A healthy ocular surface requires a balanced tear film to keep the eyes lubricated, protect them from foreign debris, and provide an even, smooth surface. A balanced tear film consists of 3 layers:

  1. The water layer, which keeps the eyes moist.
  2. The oil layer, which prevents tears from evaporating.
  3. The mucous layer, which helps tears stick to the eye surface.

The meibomian glands are tiny glands located along the edge of the eyelids that secrete oil. When these glands function properly, they contribute significantly to the stability and quality of the tear film, protecting the eyes from dryness and irritation.

However, if there’s a problem with the meibomian glands, such as inflammation or blocked glands, a decrease in oil in tears leads to an imbalanced or unstable tear film that causes quicker evaporation of tears. 

Common Symptoms of MGD

Common symptoms of MGD can include:

  • Gritty eyes or a feeling of something in the eye
  • Irritation and itchy eyes 
  • Sore or burning sensations in the eyes
  • Redness
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Watery eyes

Causes & Risk Factors of MGD

Several causes and risk factors can contribute to the development of MGD:

  • Health conditions: Blepharitis or inflammation of the eyelids can cause or increase the risk of MGD.
  • Aging: The risk of MGD increases with age due to hormonal changes and natural degeneration of gland function.
  • Contact lenses: Wearing contact lenses can worsen meibomian gland dysfunction and dry eye. 
  • Lifestyle choices: Prolonged screen time can adversely affect eye health.
  • Environmental conditions: Extended exposure to dry or windy environments can exacerbate MGD symptoms.

Diagnosing MGD

Diagnosing MGD involves a dry eye questionnaire, an eye exam, and a more in-depth assessment:

  • Dry eye questionnaire: This can help identify symptoms indicative of MGD, prompting further professional evaluation.
  • Eye exam: During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will discuss your medical and eye history, symptoms, and any medications you take. They will also check your current eye health. 
  • In-depth assessment: This may involve evaluating the quality of the tear film, digital imaging of the ocular surface and the eyelids, and meibomian gland expression, which is applying pressure to the eyelid to detect MGD. 

A woman holds a bottle of eye drops in her right hand while dispensing eye drops in her right eye.

Treating & Managing MGD

Once your eye doctor diagnoses the underlying cause of your symptoms, they can recommend a personalized treatment plan based on your needs. Treatment for MGD requires a multi-faceted approach, ranging from simple at-home care to more specialized in-office treatments. Some common treatments include:

Warm Compresses

Applying warm compresses to the eyelids and gently massaging the eyelids can help loosen clogged oils in the meibomian glands. A compress can include a warm, moist washcloth or eyelid mask. 

While these don’t address the underlying cause of MGD, they can provide some relief. 

Eyelid Hygiene

Regularly cleaning eyelid margins with gentle cleansers can prevent bacterial growth and reduce inflammation. In-office treatments for eyelid hygiene can include hand-held devices to gently scrub the eyelid margins to remove bacteria and debris that cause inflammation. 


Preservative-free eye drops can help reduce inflammation and help the eyes produce tears. Over-the-counter eye drops are available, but your eye doctor may issue a prescription if necessary.

Punctal Plugs

Punctal plugs are tiny devices placed in the eye’s drainage ducts to prevent tears from draining. They help to increase eye surface tear volume to help maintain healthy and lubricated eyes. 

Importance of Regular Eye Care 

Consistent eye care routines are vital for managing MGD effectively. Incorporating habits such as taking regular breaks from screens, maintaining a balanced diet, and staying hydrated can go a long way in preventing worsening MGD symptoms.

Tips for Day-to-Day Management of MGD

Living with dry eye symptoms and MGD involves making lifestyle adjustments and environmental changes to minimize discomfort. These can include:

  • Using a humidifier: A humidifier can add moisture to the air, alleviating dryness.
  • Wearing protective eyewear: Wearing wrap-around sunglasses can shield your eyes from wind and dust.
  • Making dietary changes: Including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can enhance gland function.
  • Scheduling eye exams: Scheduling regular eye exams with your eye doctor can help with early detection and management of MGD.

Long-Term Relief for Dry Eyes in SE Calgary

Meibomian gland dysfunction is a significant eye condition that can affect your quality of life. Understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatments can help provide vision comfort. 

If you suspect that you might have MGD, book an appointment with Vivid Eye Care. We can help you explore tailored treatment options for MGD management and symptom relief.