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Who Is at High Risk for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

Meibomian gland dysfunction is the most common cause of dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome is a condition that results from having a low quantity or low-quality tears. The low quality of tears can result from the lack of the oil component in tears.


The glands responsible for producing this oil or meibum are the meibomian glands. When there is a dysfunction in these glands, they do not process enough oil. The oil helps lubricate the eyes and prevents tears from evaporating too fast.


What Is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?


Tears consist of three layers of substances: oil (meibum), water, and mucus. The meibum lubricates the eye and reduces the evaporation of the water. It is produced in the meibomian glands found along the rims of the eyelids. When there is a blockage in the tiny glands, it causes less oil to reach the eye surface. Less meibum then causes dry eye.


There are different causes for the blockage. These include wearing contact lenses, age, allergic conjunctivitis, high cholesterol, or damage to the cornea or eyelid. Some medications can also cause meibomian gland dysfunction.


So, how do you know if you are at risk for meibomian gland dysfunction?




People over 50 are often at risk of getting meibomian gland dysfunction, particularly females. It is because the meibomian gland cells atrophy as you age. They produce fewer lipids, decreasing the amount of oil in tears. Hormonal changes contribute to the likelihood of females developing meibomian gland dysfunction more than males.


The main reason for these meibomian gland changes is the lack of cell renewal. It leads to atrophy of the meibomian gland cells. The other meibomian gland change with age is the inflammation of cells in the meibomian area, affecting the glands.


Hormonal Changes

Meibomian glands have both androgen and estrogen receptors. Thus, hormones have an impact on them. Androgen hormones reduce inflammation and stimulate oil secretion. Estrogen hormones increase inflammation. So as females age and there is a disruption of these hormones, there is a likelihood of meibomian gland dysfunction.


Individuals with low androgen levels are also at a high risk of getting meibomian gland dysfunction. These may include people with prostate cancer, Sjogren’s syndrome, and complete androgen insensitivity syndrome.


Use of Medication


Some medications affect the functions of the meibomian glands. They can also impact the quality of the oil the glands produce. These medications include topical epinephrine, topical glaucoma medication, and isotretinoin. Isotretinoin is an acne medication that causes meibomian gland atrophy.


Environmental Stress


Dry environments can lead to changes in the cells that make up meibum. It changes the ratio of lipids to proteins in the oil. Eventually, the alteration causes depletion in the number of functioning meibomian glands. Environmental stress may also cause the thickness of the meibum to increase, making the tear film less stable.




Meibomian gland dysfunction also has a genetic component. It means that some people are born with the disorder. It causes them to have few meibomian glands, or they may be absent. To confirm if you fall in this category, you need to contact your doctor.

For more information on who is at high risk of developing meibomian gland dysfunction, contact Brandon Eyes at our office in Madison or Middleton, Wisconsin. You can call (608) 833-0301 or (608) 833-7256 today to schedule an appointment.

A30master none 9:00 am – 5:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Closed Closed (608) 833-0301 608-833-0302 6122 Mineral Point Road
Madison, WI 53705