What is meibomitis?
Meibomitis is an inflammatory condition of the Meibomian glands. Meibomian glands are the small glands that sit at the lid margins on the top and bottom of your eyes. These small glands produce an oil that coats the front surface of the tear film, preventing tears from easily evaporating. This condition is especially important in those patients who suffer from dry eye as the result of meibomitis is both lid inflammation and dry eyes.
Who can be affected by meibomitis?
This common condition affects patients of all ages. While certainly uncomfortable, meibomitis in and of itself is not contagious and generally does not result in permanent eye damage.
How is blepharitis related to meibomitis?
There are generally two types of blepharitis, anterior blepharitis and posterior blepharitis. Anterior blepharitis occurs along the external portion of the lids around the base of the eye lashes. Posterior blepharitis (also called ‘meibomitis) affects the inner edge of the eyelid that comes in contact with the eyeball, specifically at the oil glands (called ‘meibomian glands’). These two types can occur simultaneously or separately. We refer to Anterior blepharitis simply as “Blepharitis” and posterior blepharitis simply as “Meibomitis”).
What causes meibomitis?
This condition can result from irregular oil production by the oil glands of the eyelids which creates a favorable environment for bacterial growth. It can also develop as a result of other skin conditions such as acne rosacea and scalp dandruff.
How is meibomitis diagnosed?
Meibomitis is typically diagnosed at a patient’s annual comprehensive eye and vision examination. Testing, with special emphasis on evaluation of the eyelids and front surface of the eyeball, may include:
- Patient history – to determine any symptoms the patient is experiencing and the presence of any general health problems that may be contributing to the eye problem.
- External examination of the eye – including lid structure, skin texture and eyelash appearance under the bio-microscope.
- Evaluation of the quantity and quality of tears – for any abnormalities.
How is meibomitis treated?
The goal of treating meibomitis is to open up the meibomian glands so that they can function in preventing tear evaporation. The first step in meibomitis treatment is to soften the oils within the glands by applying heat. Our doctors typically use a warm facial mask to gently and effectively heat the lids, and melt the contents of the impacted meibomian glands. Next, a special instrument is used to express the glands. This process is generally painless and only takes about twenty minutes.
Can medications be used to treat meibomitis?
If the meibomitis is particularly pronounced, our doctors may prescribe an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory medication to help restore the meibomian glands to their full functionality. Often times a bacterial infection is concurrent with the inflammation and antibiotics allow for quick resolution of the condition. If the eyes are dry, a dietary supplement (such as EyePromise EZ Tears) may be prescribed to help increase tear quality and quantity.
What can I do at home to encourage healthy meibomian gland function?
Because the meibomian glands produce oil, they respond very well to heat. Gently heating the lids encouraged blood flow to the lids as well as softening the meibomian gland contents. Your doctor may ask you to perform warm compresses as home as part of your treatment.
Directions for eyelid warm compresses:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Moisten a clean washcloth with warm water.
- Close eyes and place washcloth on eyelids for about 5 minutes, reheating the washcloth as necessary. The eyelids are the thinnest skin in the human body, so take care not to burn them.
- Repeat several times daily.