How to Unblock Meibomian Glands

A close-up of a woman's eye trying to show the spot where meibomian glands are located along the lashline.

If you’re experiencing discomfort from dry eyes, most likely, meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is to blame. MGD is the most common cause of dry eye disease and occurs when the meibomian glands become blocked with hardened oil and debris. Unblocking them is the primary method to achieving relief from irritating symptoms.

There are several methods to unblock blocked meibomian glands, from home methods to in-office treatments, including heat masks, meibomian gland expression, and TempSure Envi therapy. During a your eye examination, our doctors will identify the cause of your dry eye symptoms, determine the severity, offer advice on dry eye management, and recommend treatments.

What Is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

Your meibomian glands are the oil-producing glands that provide the lipid layer to the tear film. A well-balanced tear film consists of 3 distinct layers: the inner mucus layer, the middle aqueous layer, and the outermost layer of lipid or fat.

The oil layer of the tear film is exposed to the environment, and it’s critical to delaying premature tear evaporation. You can develop dry eyes if your tears evaporate too quickly before new tears are produced.

All 3 layers of tears are essential for protecting the eye from environmental conditions and debris, lubricating the eye, preventing infections, and protecting the health of the conjunctiva and cornea, parts of the eye’s surface. 

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Symptoms

MGD can cause various uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Red eyes
  • Feeling like something’s in your eye
  • Gritty sensation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Blurry vision
  • Overwatering of the eye
  • Discharge or crusting
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses

Risk Factors for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

Some are more prone to developing dry eyes than others. Common risk factors related to MGD include:

  • Certain medications
  • Improper contact lens care or overwearing contact lenses
  • Prolonged exposure to digital screens
  • Aging
  • Hormonal changes
  • Diet
  • Environmental factors such as wind or dry conditions
  • Smoking
  • Improperly removing makeup

Many of these risk factors can be diminished with lifestyle changes: Reduce or quit smoking, double cleanse to remove your makeup correctly, wear your contacts only as directed, and limit screen time. While you may still experience dry eyes, these are all steps toward caring for your health and lessening your discomfort.

A senior woman is using a warm towel to cure the symptoms of clogged meibomian glands.

How to Unblock Meibomian Glands

Unblocking meibomian glands can offer long-term relief for MGD. You can use home remedies or try dry eye technology to prevent oil buildup from returning for longer.

Heat Mask

A warm compress or heat mask at home can gently warm the glands to liquefy the hardened oil blockages. After using a heat mask, you can carefully massage the eyes to encourage the oil to unblock the glands.

If you’re worried that you’re too heavy-handed and decide to skip the eye massage, using a warm compress alone can go a long way in relieving your discomfort in the short term.

Meibomian Gland Expression

An in-office meibomian gland expression treatment has been shown to improve MGD and dry eye symptoms significantly. Your optometrist can apply pressure to the eyelids to express the oils from the glands on the eyelid margins.

Using a paddle-like tool, your optometrist will compress the lower and upper lids to effectively increase the quality of oil production and help relieve symptoms of dry eye. While there can be some discomfort during the procedure, you’ll likely begin to feel an ease in irritating dry eye symptoms.

TempSure Envi

TempSure Envi is a therapeutic warming treatment using innovative technology to maximize dry eye relief. Compared to an at-home warm mask, TempSure Envi offers a deeply penetrating yet gentle heat coupled with a soft massage to break up oil blockages and flush out the old oils.

When the oil blockages are softened and massaged away, your glands can produce fresh, healthy oils to stabilize your tear film’s balance.

How to Prevent Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

Once you’ve received treatment to unblock your meibomian glands, you can take some preventative measures to discourage more buildup from accumulating. Some simple lifestyle tips to incorporate into your routine include the following:

Treat Your Meibomian Gland Dysfunction & Relieve Dry Eye

Unblocking your meibomian glands can restore moisture to your eyes and lubrication to your tear film. Visit Spectrum Eye Care to discuss your dry eye symptoms, choose the best treatment, and keep your eyes comfortable and healthy.