The eyelids and eyelashes are oftentimes overlooked for the role they play in ocular health. The eyelids in particular play an essential role in keeping the eyes nourished and comfortable. As we know, the eyelid margins are home to millions of Meibomian glands that are responsible for releasing the important lipid layer of the tear film. If the eyelids and eyelashes are not properly cared for, Meibomian gland dysfunction can arise and the symptoms of Dry Eye Disease can appear or can drastically worsen. For that reason, proper lid hygiene is essential in preventing symptoms such as dryness, irritation, grittiness, and watering. Continue reading to learn more about proper lid hygiene.
Preventing Dry Eyes from Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Meibomian gland dysfunction is oftentimes the underlying cause of dry eye disease. The oils released by these glands help keep the tear film stable, and prevent the tears from quickly evaporating off the front surface of the eye. When these glands are blocked or malfunctioning, dry eye symptoms, like watery eyes or extreme irritation, can quickly arise. The best way to prevent the blockage of these ever-important glands is to keep the eyelids clean and healthy. General hygiene is very important in regards to the eyelids and eyelashes: regularly washing off makeup and keeping makeup applicators clean is essential, as is using only clean washcloths, pillowcases, and towels. However, if you are suffering from moderate to severe Meibomian gland dysfunction, these simple lifestyle habits may not be enough. Your doctor may recommend a lid hygiene routine, including lid scrubs and warm compresses, in order to maintain proper lid and lash health.
Lid Scrubs and Warm Compresses
Eyelid scrubs are commonly recommended by optometrists in order to clear the lids of debris and reduce the risk of Meibomian gland blockage. Some doctors prefer commercially packaged lid scrubs, which are combined with warm water to thoroughly clean the eyelid margin and safely remove debris, including makeup. Many of the pre-packaged lid scrub options contain anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory soaps, which can help fight concurrent lid conditions such as blepharitis. If you are unable to use the commercially prepared lid scrubs, ask your doctor how to safely clean your eyelids with warm water and diluted baby shampoo.
If the state of your eyelids is significantly impacting the function of your Meibomian glands, your doctor will likely recommend warm compresses or a treatment with our highly effective Lipiflow. Warm compresses work to prevent the oils within the Meibomian glands from clogging. They promote a healthier tear film and can help soothe the eye and eliminate many dry eye symptoms. Warm compresses can be performed by completely covering a clean washcloth with warm water – the water should be noticeably warm, but not hot enough to damage your eye or skin. The washcloth is then placed on your closed eye for up to 10 minutes. It’s important that the washcloth stay warm, so re-cover it with warm water if it cools off before your 10 minutes are up. Another option is to fill a dry, clean sock with rice and microwave it for about 30 seconds, then place the sock on the closed eye. This method is effective because the rice retains heat well, and usually stays warm longer than a washcloth. There are even over-the-counter masks, like the Brüder mask, that are ready to be heated and placed over the eyes.
If you have any questions regarding lid hygiene and the treatment of Meibomian gland dysfunction, it is best to talk to your optometrist.