Heating and Expression of Meibomian Glands for Dry Eyes

86% of patients who present with symptoms, such as discomfort, redness, tearing, gritty or burning sensations and blurry vision, have Meibomian Gland Disease (MGD). 

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Heating and Expression of Meibomian Glands for Dry Eyes Videos

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The Importance of Eye Care for Dry Eyes

All too often people with symptoms such as discomfort, redness, tearing, gritty or burning sensations and blurry vision will be sent home with eye drops. Eye doctors that specialize in dry eye disease understand the importance of identifying the root cause of the symptoms in order to provide effective treatment. Studies show that over 80% of dry eye sufferers have blockage to their meibomian glands as an underlying cause. 

There are a number of available treatments for dry eye, in particular for dry eye caused by Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, which can greatly help patients. If you are suffering from dry eye, look for an eye doctor that has one of the advanced technologies below to treat meibomian gland disease.

What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is a common eye problem that is often the root cause of dry eye. The condition is when there is inflammation and clogging of small glands located in the eyelids which produce the oily layer of tears. When these glands are inflamed and clogged, less of this oil makes it into the tear film, causing them to evaporate more quickly. As a result, you experience irritated, burning, watery, gritty, painful, dry eyes. Learn more about meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) here.

Treatment for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

Treatment for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

A common method for treating MGD is applying warm compresses to and then massaging the eyelids. The objective of this treatment is to unclog the openings of the meibomian glands.

There are simple, at-home methods of treatment such as warm compresses and massaging the eyelids, however, these tend to only provide a small measure of relief.

However, there are other treatment options, often done in an optometry office that specializes in dry eye disease, involving providing heat therapy to the eyelids followed by massaging of the eyelids to get the melted oil out of the glands.

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In-Office Treatment Options for Dry Eye Caused by Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)

In-Office Treatment Options for Dry Eye Caused by Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)

Systane iLux

The Systane iLux MGD treatment is a portable, hand-held device which utilizes an LED heat source to warm both the inner and outer surfaces of your eyelids. This melts away waxy secretions which can be trapped in the meibomian glands. Once the secretions have been melted, our optometrist will apply compression to your eyelids to express the clogged glands while also observing the process to assess your current condition. This treatment process is typically quick, taking less than ten minutes in the office.

Studies show that this treatment generally results in major improvements in the symptoms of MGD and dry eyes from about two to four weeks after treatment.


TearCare is another treatment for MGD that is done in-office. This system works by using single use adhesive heating patches which are applied to the outside of the eyelids. These patches are in turn connected to a small and reusable heating unit. The heating is applied for 12 minutes, after which our eye doctor will squeeze the lids to open and drain the clogged glands.

A recent study on TearCare showed that it was an effective treatment for both MGD and dry eye, resulting in symptom reductions that lasted at least six months.


LipiFlow is another in-office medical device for treating MGD. It attaches to the eyelids for 12 minute treatment sessions, and applies heat and pulse pressure to simultaneously melt the waxy deposits in the meibomian glands, and to open and express the glands.

Research has found that a single LipiFlow treatment significantly improves meibomian gland secretions and dry eye symptoms for as long as three years. Learn about the affordable alternative to LipiFlow treatment for dry eyes syndrome here.

Mibo Thermoflo

This device, manufactured by Mibo Medical Group, uses a probe applied to the eyelids to apply heat. To soften and express meibomian material, the probe gently massages the lids with 108 degrees of heat.


The EyeXpress device from Holbar Medical Products is a heat mask with a soft gel insert attached to a heating element. Using a mask that is applied to the anterior surface of the patient's lids and heated to 110 degrees, the meibomian tissue is softened. Afterward, the clinician expresses material manually from the glands.

Intense pulsed light

Although IPL has been used in dermatology for over a decade, it is a newer approach for eyecare. Dry eye is treated by addressing its multiple causes. The short flashes of light cause the blood vessels in the lids to dilate and the skin temperature to rise. As a result, the meibum will become softer and can be expressed manually by clinicians or naturally by blinking.  IPL therapies are usually performed in several sessions spaced over weeks or months. For continued results, patients may require maintenance appointments every six months or annually. Learn more about intense pulsed light therapy here.

What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

Common Questions

The heat procedure for dry eyes is a treatment primarily aimed at alleviating Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), which is a leading cause of dry eye syndrome. It involves applying heat to the eyelids to melt the waxy secretions trapped in the meibomian glands. This process could be done manually using warm compresses at home or through advanced procedures at an eye clinic such as the Systane iLux, TearCare, LipiFlow, Mibo Thermoflo, or EyeXpress treatments. These in-office treatments utilize devices that apply consistent, regulated heat to the eyelids, thereby unclogging the glands and restoring their natural function.
Excessively high heat or improper application can potentially cause damage. However, when applied correctly and under the guidance of an eye care professional, heat therapy is safe and effective. Your optometrist can ensure that the right amount of heat is applied through advanced devices, which have built-in safeguards to prevent overheating.
Gland expression therapy for dry eyes is a procedure that involves applying pressure to the eyelids following heat therapy. This is done to express, or squeeze out, the melted waxy secretions blocking the meibomian glands. The goal is to restore the natural flow of oil into the tear film, which helps to maintain a healthy eye surface and relieve dry eye symptoms. This procedure is usually performed by an eye care professional in a clinic setting.
The first-line treatment for dry eyes often involves over-the-counter artificial tears, warm compresses, and eyelid hygiene. If these measures aren't effective, an appointment with your eye doctor can help identify the root cause of the symptoms and guide further treatment. This could include prescription eye drops, heat and gland expression therapies, or even surgical options in severe cases.
The best treatment for dry eye symptoms depends on the underlying cause. However, common effective treatments include artificial tears for mild cases and prescription eye drops for inflammation. Heat and gland expression therapies, as performed at eye care clinics can also be very effective for dry eye caused by MGD. In severe cases, surgical options might be considered. It's best to consult with your eye care professional who can guide you towards the most effective treatment for your particular situation.
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Dry eye is a common condition that can cause discomfort and various symptoms, such as redness, tearing, blurry vision, and a gritty or burning sensation. It is important to identify the underlying cause of these symptoms to provide effective treatment. One common cause of dry eye is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), which occurs when the small glands in the eyelids that produce the oily layer of tears become inflamed and clogged. Treating MGD involves unclogging the meibomian glands, and there are several options available. At-home methods like warm compresses and eyelid massage can provide some relief, but specialized in-office treatments are more effective. These treatments include devices like Systane iLux, TearCare, LipiFlow, Mibo Thermoflo, and EyeXpress, which use heat therapy and massage to melt away blockages and improve the function of the meibomian glands. Another treatment option is intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy, which uses short flashes of light to dilate blood vessels and soften meibum, allowing for manual expression or natural drainage. Regular eye care and treatment of dry eye, especially MGD, are crucial for relieving discomfort and maintaining good eye health.

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