The tear film is arguably one of the most important factors that play into visual acuity and clarity of vision. The three tear layers are vitally important to both the comfort of your eyes and your ability to see clearly. The first layer, the lipid layer, prevents the tears from evaporating away from the eye; the aqueous layer makes up the bulk of the tear film and bathes your eye in immune modulators; the mucin layer helps the tear film adhere to the surface of your eye. If any layer is impaired, visual acuity and quality of vision will be compromised.
The meibomian glands in your upper and lower eyelids help to produce tears, and this is where Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) begins. This disease is a progressive, obstructive disease that advances from the production of normal, healthy oils of the tear film into thicker secretions that cause stagnation and blurry vision. If left untreated, the glands can become completely obstructed and eventually die off. Yikes!
For the majority of our patients, the underlying cause of dry eye is MGD. When the tears are not functioning as they should be, the tear film evaporates prematurely, causing eye fatigue, burning, and blurred vision. Think of your eyes like your car windshield. If your windshield wipers are broken, you’re out of wiper fluid, or you have thick, dirty fluid, it’s going to be very tough to see through the window. When your tear film is disrupted, the light coming into your eye is also disrupted. This causes blur, halos, and glare just like you notice when your windshield isn’t clean. Healthy tears are so important because they provide a smooth surface for the light to pass through into your eye.
The most important thing to note is that this is a progressive condition. If not treated properly and quickly, you can experience a loss of function in these glands, which is not what we want! There is currently no cure for MGD, but there are many effective treatments. Another important point to note is that symptoms will be relieved while treatment is actively occurring, but they tend to return if the treatment is stopped. It requires a lifelong commitment to comfort and health!
Stay tuned for my next article on the treatments available for this condition. They're super easy and very effective!
Until next time,