The human tear film covers and protects the eye and keeps it from drying out. When the eye dries the cells on the eye surface can become damaged and even die. When this happens the ocular surface becomes irregular causing the vision to blur and change with blinking causing the vision to fluctuate. This situation makes obtaining an accurate eyeglass or contact lens prescription difficult. When the eye is dry there is more risk of eye infection. Even more serious conditions can occur causing permanent scarring and vision loss.
Many people do not feel the dryness even when their eyes are severely dry. The nerves become desensitized and dysfunctional. Sometimes as a person treats their dry eyes they can actually feel worse or more dry. This happens because the nerves to the eye rebound as healing occurs. A similar process happens when a person freezes their hands. As they warm up their hands sometimes the hands hurt worse and then tingle until the nerves in the hands rebound. A similar process occurs with dry eye treatment.
The tear film is made up of three layers: The outer lipid layer, the middle aqueous layer, and the inner mucous layer. The outer lipid layer is produced by the meibomian glands in the eyelid and is necessary to stabilize and prevent evaporation of the tear film.
The meibomian glands can often become blocked by oils naturally produced on our skin, flaking skin, makeup, and even organisms. When these meibomian glands get blocked they can become infected causing a stye. Over time the meibomian glands can become scarred causing or worsening dry eye. When the glands become scarred they cannot recuperate and we are left with red, painful, dry eyes. This is called Meibomian Gland Disease (MGD) or Blepharitis.
There is no cure for Blepharitis but there is treatment. Daily lid cleaning (lid scrubs) often with specially designed cleansers can help. Another treatment is Meibomian Gland Expression. Meibomian gland expression uses an instrument to squeeze or milk the meibomian gland and is often preceded by special instruments to heat the lids. The heating helps to melt the oils that are helping block the glands.
At Davis Vision Center we have noticed meibomian gland dysfunction in a very high percentage of people and therefore we now offer Meibomian Gland Expression (MGE) treatment in house. This is like a spa treatment for your eye lids and helps improve the health of your meibomian glands and dry eyes.