What is Meibomitis?
Inflammation of tiny glands (meibomian glands) which line the upper and lower eyelids just behind the lash line is known as meibomitis. Mebomium glands release meibum, kind of oil, which lubricates the eyes and prevent the tears from evaporating. On blocking, the gland changes the amount and composition of meibum making the eyes and vision uncomfortable. This creates an environment favorable for bacterial growth. There are 20-40 meibomian glands in each lower eyelid and 30-40 glands in each upper eyelid.(1) Blinking increases meibum secretion. Meibomitis is mostly common in elderly and in people who live and work in the environment rich in dust and pollen.
Causes of Meibomitis
Though the exact causes are unknown, meibomitis is believed to be caused by bacteria.(2) Factors associated with a high risk of meibomitis are(3): Diet: A diet lacking in omega 3 increases the risk of suffering from meibomitis. Flaxseeds, fish oil, and olive oil are rich in omega 3 fats. Hormones: Composition of meibum can get affected by androgens and estrogens. Estrogens increase the inflammation whereas androgens stimulate the meibum secretion and suppress inflammation. Drugs: Retinoic acid (prescribed for acne) can change the volume and functioning of meibomian glands. Also, topical epinephrine and glaucoma medications tend to change the meibomian gland function. Rosacea: A study showed that people with rosacea were found with more abnormalities in the meibomian glands when compared with the control groups(4) Computer screen usage: Computer screen usage has been linked with meibomian gland dysfunction(5) Other factors: Smoking, antihistamines, postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy, and diabetes are also associated with the condition. More research is yet to be done on it.
Symptoms of Meibomitis
The symptoms of meibomitis might vary from being mild to severe. The eyes along with being irritated and blurry, might feel:
- Sensitive to light
- Tender to touch
There might be stye in the lid which occurs as a result of clogged oil glands.
How to Treat Meibomitis?
The choice of treatment for meibomitis differs in individuals and depends on the severity of the symptoms. The physician might start with conservative treatments and add certain drugs or other treatments if the symptoms of meibomitis still persist.
If suffering from meibomitis, lid hygiene is the first treatment advised by the doctor which includes,
- Warm compress to the lids for at least 1-2 minutes
- Lid massage
- Scrub and cleanser for lids
- Eye drops, tears, gels, or ointments according to the doctor’s advice
There are certain antibiotics which are prescribed for meibomitis as they reduce inflammation and improve the meibum. To many individuals, corticosteroids are prescribed to reduce inflammation. Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant drug which is found to be effective.(6) The effective dosage is yet to be researched.
Over The Counter Prescription
Omega 3 essential fats are shown to improve the symptoms of meibomian gland dysfunction and meibomitis.(7) Over the counter, artificial tears with oil also help in providing symptom relief.
In severe cases, surgery is done to open the meibomian glands to relieve the symptoms.
How Can You Prevent Meibomitis?
There are few tips which can be considered to avoid meibomitis:
- Keep eyes clean, follow eye hygiene
- Stay hydrated
- Keep the air around humidified
- Lubricate eyes which includes blinking frequently
- Protect the eyes from sun and wind
In some, the symptoms are not difficult to manage but should not be ignored. Without treatment, the inflammation can progress and if severe, meibomitis can be very painful. It is also important to follow the prevention steps to avoid the condition. Talk to the doctor if you notice any symptom related to the condition as he might suggest the best treatment option for relief.
- Journal of Clinical Medicine. Assessment of Tear Film in Patients with Rosacea. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6471187/
- Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology and Research. Prevalence and risk factors of computer vision syndrome in a rural population of North India: A cross-sectional study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5386969/
- Journal of Ophthalmic and Vision Research. Management of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction: A Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4681354/