What is a Meibomian Gland?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2019
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The meibomian gland is the main reason why tears do not spill directly from the eye onto the cheek. This gland is located in the corner of the eyelid area, and it is responsible for producing sebum. Sebum is a type of oily substance that keeps the eyes from drying out. Thus, any person with a dysfunctional meibomian gland often suffers from dry eyes.

Dry meibomian glands are quite common, though this condition is often misdiagnosed. When detected early, dry eyes can be helped. However, most people do not seek any help for dry eyes until the eyes have become severely irritated. It is not uncommon for meibomian gland disorder to be diagnosed as classic "dry eye" disorder. When this type of misdiagnosis occurs, the meibomian glands are not allowed to heal properly.

Any person who is suffering from chronic dry eyes should consult a medical doctor. While over-the-counter "fake tear" solutions may help temporarily, a meibomian gland malfunction cannot be cured with this type of medication. Instead, dysfunctional meibomian glands must be treated in other, more effective, ways. Some treatments include applying a hot compress to the area and ingesting oral antibiotics. Aside from meibomian gland dysfunction, this area of the eye is not usually affected by other ailments.


There are more than 50 glands on the upper portion of the eyelid, and around 25 glands on the lower part of the eyelid. When these glands become swollen, the result is often a slight eyelid pain that can be unbearable in some cases. Upon further inspection, a medical examination will reveal raised bumps under and above the eyelid area. These bumps are actual meibomian glands that have become raised due to swelling.

Since almost every person has meibomian glands, nearly everyone is susceptible to meibomian gland dysfunction. However, most people go through life never experiencing this type of malfunction. As stated, those that do experience meibomian pain are often misdiagnosed. The glands themselves were named after Heinrich Meibom who discovered the meibomian glands. During his lifetime, Meibom wrote various medical treaties that explained, amongst other things, the function of the gland.

While Meibom contributed positively to our current understanding of the meibomian gland, he did not contribute to medicine in any other significant manner. Instead, Meibom spent the remainder of his life writing poetry. Regardless, thanks to Meibom's one major discovery, medical doctors now know why some people consistently deal with dry eyes.


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Post 3

Apparently the meibomian gland and the sebum it produces is the reason your eyes are water and air tight when they close.

If it was just two dry or moist pieces of skin pressing together, they'd need a lot more force to prevent water from getting in. But, with a thin layer of oil there, they sort of stick together to keep the water or air out and your tears in.

I actually think it's kind of great that a scientist who discovered a lot of things about tears ended up spending the rest of his life writing poetry. There's a kind of almost fictional quality to that.

Post 2

@browncoat - If you are still having that problem with your contacts, you might want to try switching brands. They have special kinds of contacts for people with sensitive or dry eyes. Usually they are 1-day or 1-week only contacts with a high water content.

Alternatively, you might want to try some of the artificial tears mentioned in the article. These would be especially useful if you don't really have very dry eyes, but only slightly affected eyes.

I tend to have slightly dry eyes myself, but I find if I use that treatment for dry eyes and only wear contacts for a few hours at a time, they are all right.

Post 1

I think there are certain medications that can cause dry eyes as well, probably by affecting the meibomian gland.

I have a hormone correction medication that I have to take each day and I was warned one of the possible side effects was dry eyes. It could possibly lead to eye infections if I let them get too dry, too often, as it allows bacteria more reign to take over the eye.

Luckily I only had slightly dry eyes while using the medication. In fact, the only thing that really happened was that I wasn't comfortable using contacts anymore. They tending to feel a bit more "present" in my eye, which was too annoying.

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