Q: My eye doctor tells me I need to come back every 6 months to have my eyelids cleaned, like I get my teeth cleaned twice a year. Is this common these days?
A: Probably not a real common practice in most eye care offices, yet……but I believe it will become very common for some patients. The common link here is the health of your gums and the health of your eyelids.
We all kind of know that we get a buildup of plaque on our teeth, especially in those hard to reach spots where our toothbrush doesn’t do a great job. It turns out that for people with dry eye disease and/or eye discomfort, about 86% of the time it is caused by a problem with oil glands along the edges of our eyelids!
These Meibomian glands normally secrete a tiny bit of very fine oil into our tear film with each blink. This oil, also called “meibum”, is critical for our tears ability to keep our eye surface clean and moist between blinks. There are two common ways for our Meibomian glands to develop problems.
One, they become clogged and plugged with “biofilm”….like plaque on our eyelids. For many patients, these require professional “cleaning” once or twice a year. We don’t scrape and polish like your dental hygienist does your teeth, but we gently remove the plaque blocking the glands along the lid edges. Then, with precise heat and gently pressure, we express the clogged or plugged glands. These steps then allow normal oil secretion to resume and restore more normal tear film health.
Two, many people are prone to chronic low-grade inflammation and/or infection of these oil glands. For these patients, we generally prescribe anti-inflammatory medications…..with or without antibiotics……to quell the inflammation. After the eyelids are quiet and comfortable, we may need to express those glands also, or simply recommend a daily eyelid cleanser. Often these patients benefit from mild at-home heat treatments on a daily basis ( think of flossing? ). To be complete, some of these people progress without treatment to developing a “stye” which is an infected oil gland. Those cases will need prolonged oral medications and/or eyelid surgery.
The similarities are numerous! At Morgantown Eye Associates, we do not employ dental hygienists…..but we do have highly trained “eyegienists” on our team to assist in your treatment. Like most all health problems, some people will never have any of this, while others will require regular 6 month treatments to restore and preserve normal eye comfort and health.
Don't let dry eye discomfort go untreated, schedule an appointment today with our eye doctors to discuss Meibomian gland cleaning and other treatment options. Call Morgantown Eye Associates in Morgantown today!