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Meibomian Gland Expression: Effective Clinical Treatment for Dry Eyes

meibomian gland expression

Ever wondered why your eyes always feel uncomfortably dry, even in the varied climate of Canberra?

Consider the story of Evelyn, a patient at our clinic. Like many in the nation’s capital, she initially blamed the dry, windy conditions and her screen-heavy lifestyle for her eye discomfort. But as her symptoms persisted, it became clear there was more to her story. This is a common narrative for those battling dry eye disease, a condition characterized by symptoms like irritation, redness, and a gritty feeling in the eyes, which can greatly affect one’s daily life.

I’m Juliet Menakaya, an optometrist based in Canberra with a deep understanding of dry eye conditions, particularly Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). At Junic Eye Care, we have deep experience in treating such conditions. MGD occurs when the Meibomian glands, responsible for the oil layer in our eye’s tear film, become clogged, much like a blocked pipe in a delicate plumbing system. This blockage leads to tear evaporation and dry eye symptoms.

The turning point in Evelyn’s eye care journey was the implementation of Meibomian gland expression at Junic Eye Care.

This clinical procedure, aimed at the root cause of her discomfort, offered her the relief she desperately needed. In this article, we’ll explore the nuances of Meibomian gland expression, examining its effectiveness in treating dry eye symptoms.

Understanding Meibomian Glands and Their Role in Eye Health

The Meibomian glands play a surprisingly crucial role in our eye health, yet they’re often something we don’t think about until there’s a problem. These tiny glands are located in our eyelids – imagine them as small oil factories lined along the edges of your upper and lower eyelids. Their job? To secrete oil into our tears. This oil is essential; it forms the top layer of our tear film and prevents the rapid evaporation of our tears. Without it, our eyes would be like a backyard pool that’s lost its protective cover, leaving the water to evaporate under the sun.

Now, let’s talk about Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). When these glands don’t work properly, the balance of our tear film is disrupted. The result? Our tears evaporate too quickly, leading to a range of discomforting symptoms.

So, what does this mean for our eyes? MGD can lead to common dry eye symptoms including:

  • A gritty or scratchy feeling, as if there’s something in your eye.
  • Dryness that can feel particularly uncomfortable in environments like the dry Canberra climate.
  • Redness and irritation, making your eyes look tired.
  • A stinging or burning sensation that can be quite bothersome.

Understanding the critical role of Meibomian glands helps us see why maintaining their health is key to keeping our eyes comfortable and well-lubricated. It’s one of those behind-the-scenes systems in our body that, when functioning well, we barely notice – but when there’s a problem, it can have a big impact on our day-to-day comfort.

Watch the following video if you’d like to know about what Meibomian glands are, why they are important and who is most at risk of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD).

The Importance of Meibomian Gland Expression Treatment

Meibomian gland expression, although it sounds technical, is simply a process akin to clearing a blocked water pipe, restoring a smooth flow. In this treatment, gentle pressure is applied to the eyelids to unclog the Meibomian glands. The pressure will excrete any congealed oil within the glands that is blocking their proper function. We then wipe away and remove this oil with sanitary eye care materials.

Now, how does Meibomian gland expression differ from other dry eye treatments? While artificial tears and warm compresses provide symptomatic relief, they’re like giving a parched plant a quick water spray. They help momentarily, but don’t necessarily fix the underlying problem. On the other hand, Meibomian gland expression is like repairing the plant’s root system to ensure it gets the right amount of water regularly. This treatment goes beyond just alleviating symptoms; it targets the source of the problem for more lasting relief.

In essence, while there are several ways to tackle dry eye symptoms, Meibomian gland expression stands out for its direct approach in addressing one of the key underlying causes of dry eyes. It’s an integral part of a comprehensive eye care strategy, especially for those for whom typical remedies only offer temporary relief.

The Meibomian Gland Expression Process

Understanding the process of Meibomian gland expression can help demystify this effective treatment for dry eye symptoms. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what happens during the procedure:

  • Initial Assessment: First, we conduct a thorough examination of the eye’s surface and eyelids to assess the extent of gland blockage and overall eye health. This ensures a tailored approach to the treatment.
  • Preparation: The area around the eyes is cleaned, and sometimes, a warm compress is applied to soften the oils in the glands, making them easier to express.
  • Application of Gentle Pressure: Using specialized tools designed for this procedure, gentle pressure is applied to the eyelids. These tools, which vary from simple manual devices to more sophisticated instruments, are used to carefully and precisely express the clogged material from the Meibomian glands.
  • Monitoring and Adjustments: Throughout the process, the pressure and technique are adjusted according to the patient’s response and comfort level. We continually monitor the expression to ensure effectiveness and safety.
  • Post-procedure Care: After the procedure, patients are usually given instructions on follow-up care, which might include applying warm compresses at home and using lubricating eye drops.

The safety and comfort of our patients during Meibomian gland expression are paramount. We ensure that the procedure is performed gently and with utmost care to avoid any discomfort. The tools used are designed specifically for this purpose, minimizing any risk and maximizing the effectiveness of the treatment.

Patients typically find this procedure to be a comfortable experience, with many noticing a relief in symptoms soon after. It’s a safe and controlled way to directly address one of the key underlying causes of dry eyes, making it an invaluable part of comprehensive eye care.

dry eyes and allergy
dry eyes using a computer

Complementary Treatments and Lifestyle Adjustments

In addition to clinical treatments like Meibomian gland expression, managing dry eye symptoms often involves a holistic approach, including dietary changes and lifestyle adjustments. Here’s how you can complement your treatment for more effective results:

  • Dietary Changes: Incorporating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial for dry eye management. Think of adding more fish like salmon, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts to your diet. These foods help in maintaining healthy tear film and reducing inflammation in the body.
  • Regular Eye Exams: Consistent eye check-ups are crucial. These exams allow us to monitor the health of your eyes, assess the effectiveness of your current treatment, and make necessary adjustments. Regular follow-up care ensures that any changes in your condition are addressed promptly, keeping your treatment on the right track.
  • Complementary Treatments at Junic Eye Care: At our clinic, we offer a range of treatments that work hand-in-hand with Meibomian gland expression. These may include: prescription eye drops, blepharitis treatments, specialized warm compress masks and more.

By combining clinical treatments with these dietary and lifestyle modifications, we can create a comprehensive plan to manage dry eye syndrome effectively. At Junic Eye Care, we are committed to providing a holistic approach to your eye health, ensuring that you receive the most suitable and comprehensive care for your eyes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Meibomian gland expression painful?

An optometrist will use a topical anaesthesia (eyedrops) to numb your eyelids and most patients tolerate the procedure well.

How long does it take to unclog Meibomian glands?

The expression treatment should be completed within 15 minutes.

How do I know if my Meibomian glands are blocked?

In its early stages, most people won’t know if the have Meibomian Gland Dysfunction. But as MGD progresses and you have less oil or poor-quality oil in your tear film, your eyes may burn, itch, or be irritated or dry.

What happens if Meibomian gland dysfunction is left untreated?

If Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is left untreated, the glands may start to deteriorate, similar to how muscles weaken when not regularly exercised. The loss of these glands poses a significant and long-term issue, as once they cease to function, there’s currently no method available to revive their activity.

Can you reverse Meibomian gland dysfunction?

Catching Meibomian Gland Dysfunction at an early stage is crucial, as it can lead to the successful restoration of gland function. This early intervention, especially with Meibomian gland expression therapy, can prevent the glands from deteriorating and succumbing to atrophy.


In summary, treating Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is not just about alleviating discomfort; it’s a crucial step in preserving overall eye health. MGD, if left unaddressed, can lead to chronic dry eye symptoms, impacting your vision quality and daily comfort. That’s why understanding and tackling this condition is so important.

The benefits of Meibomian gland expression in this context cannot be overstated. This treatment directly targets the root cause of MGD by unclogging the oil-producing glands, thus restoring the essential balance of your tear film. It’s a focused approach that goes beyond mere symptom relief, offering a pathway to long-term eye comfort. Patients who undergo this therapy often report significant improvements, not just in terms of reduced dryness and irritation, but also in their overall quality of life.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry eyes or believe you might have MGD, don’t let it go unchecked. At Junic Eye Care, we’re equipped with the expertise and technology to provide specialized dry eye treatment, including Meibomian gland expression therapy. We invite you to visit us for a comprehensive eye examination. Let us help you achieve optimal eye health and comfort with personalized care tailored to your needs. Your eyes deserve the best care, and we’re here to offer just that.

To visit our optometry practice, click the “Book Online” button at the top of the page or call (02) 6152 8585 today.

You’ll find our clinic conveniently located in the Molonglo Health Hub, just a short 10 minute drive from central Canberra, with plenty of free parking when you get here.

Author: Juliet Menakaya, O.D MPH

CANBERRA OPTOMETRIST Juliet obtained her Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Benin, Nigeria in 2006. She completed an internship programme before migrating to Australia, where she completed a master’s degree in public health at the University of Sydney in 2014. Following this, Juliet obtained a Master of Orthoptics from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in 2017. Juliet has completed her competency in optometry examination with OCANZ (Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand), and obtained her ophthalmic prescribing rights from ACO (Australian College Of Optometry Victoria). Juliet has worked in various positions, including retail Optometry, the Ophthalmology Department at Canberra Hospital, and more recently, at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (ANU). As a dedicated Canberra optometrist, Juliet is passionate about helping people with low vision, and binocular vision anomalies hence her interests in Low Vision Rehabilitation, Eccentric Viewing Training and Paediatric optometry.