Meibomianitis is an inflammation of the meibomian glands, a group of oil-secreting (sebaceous) glands in the eyelids. These glands have tiny openings to release oils onto the surface of the cornea.
Meibomian glandular dysfunction
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Any condition that increases the thickness of the oily secretions of the meibomian glands will allow excess oils to accumulate on the edges of the lids. This allows for the over-growth of bacteria, which are normally present on skin.
These problems can be caused by allergy, the hormonal changes of adolescence, or general skin conditions such as rosacea and acne.
Meibomianitis is often associated with blepharitis, which can cause an accumulation of dandruff-like substance at the base of the eyelashes.
Swelling and redness of eyelid edges
Symptoms of dry eye
Slight blurring of vision due to excess oil in tears -- usually cleared by blinking
Meibomianitis can be diagnosed by eye examination. Special tests are not required.
Standard treatment involves:
Careful cleansing of the edges of the lids
Applying moist heat to the affected eye
These treatments will usually reduce symptoms.
Your health care provider may prescribe an antibiotic ointment to be applied to the lid edge.
Other treatments may include:
Meibomian gland expression, performed by an eye doctor, to help clear the glands of the secretions
Insertion of a small tube (cannula) into each gland opening to wash out thickened oil
Several weeks of tetracycline antibiotics
Any general skin condition such as acne or rosacea may also require treatment.
Meibomianitis is not a vision-threatening condition. However, it may be a chronic and recurring cause of eye irritation. Many people find the treatments frustrating because results are not often immediate. Treatment, however, will often help reduce symptoms.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if treatment does not lead to improvement or if styes develop.
Attention to lid hygiene will help prevent meibomianitis. Certain foods such as chocolate may aggravate the condition. Treatment of associated general skin conditions will help prevent meibomianitis.
Foster CS. The eye in skin and mucous membrane disorders. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane’s Ophthalmology. 15th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 27.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.