Meibomianitis is inflammation of the meibomian glands, a group of oil-releasing (sebaceous) glands in the eyelids. These glands have tiny openings to release oils onto the surface of the cornea.
Meibomian gland dysfunction
Any condition that increases the oily secretions of the meibomian glands will allow excess oils to build up on the edges of the eyelids. This allows for the excess growth of bacteria that are normally present on the skin.
These problems can be caused by allergies, hormone changes during adolescence, or skin conditions such as rosacea and acne.
Meibomianitis is often associated with blepharitis, which can cause a buildup of a 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:
Carefully cleansing 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 apply to the lid's edge.
Other treatments may include:
Having an eye doctor perform meibomian gland expression to help clear the glands of secretions
Inserting a small tube (cannula) into each gland opening to wash out thickened oil
Taking tetracycline antibiotics for several weeks
Using LipoFlow, a device that automatically warms the eyelid and helps clear the glands
Taking fish oil to improve the flow of oil from the glands
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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if treatment does not lead to improvement or if styes develop.
Keeping your eyelids clean and treating associated 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. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:chap 27.
Lane SS, DuBiner HB, Epstein RJ, et al. A new system, the LipiFlow, for the treatment of meibomian gland dysfunction. Cornea. 2012;31:396-404.
Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.