Caring For Your Eyes

Cleaning Your Eyelids Can Preserve Meibomian Gland Health

eyehealthPreventing the scratchy, burning and itchy sensation often associated with Dry Eye may be achieved by taking daily care of our lids with basic hygiene practices. We regularly wash our face, shower, brush our teeth and wash our hands, but, unfortunately, most of us do not take the same care of our eyelids. Caring for our lids on a regular basis, as children and adults, can go a long way to managing and possibly preventing MGD (Meibomian Gland Dysfunction). In many cases, good lid hygiene is the first line of defense against MGD.

The Connection Between Dental Care and Eye Care

According to Caroline Blackie, OD, PhD, one of the foremost experts in MGD, “MGD is the gum disease of eye care.” It is not particularly exciting to talk about, but if we ignore it, it can build over time and it can take over your life. Exploring what we all know to be true about preventing gum disease or cavities provides a direct analogy to preventing MGD. Dentists prescribe preventative maintenance to avoid or minimize problems in the future. They don’t wait for dental plaque to cause cavities, inflammation and symptoms before they intervene. Preventative maintenance for eyelid health is much the same. We can administer preventative maintenance for the eyelids by doing the following:


Adopt good daily lid hygiene, blink awareness, and exercises to prevent the build up of debris on the eyelids which can block the gland openings.


Be proactive. Ask your Eye Care Professional to examine your eyelid and Meibomian gland health before you develop later stage MGD, when your eyes will start to bother you.


Routine evaluation of Meibomian gland health should be standard practice for any eye health visit with an Eye Care Professional.


Find an Eye Care Professional who can assess the function and structure of your Meibomian glands to evaluate your Meibomian gland health.

Blinking and Eye Lid Margin Health

When we blink, we activate the Meibomian glands in our eyelids to release and spread essential protective oils across the tear film on the eye surface. A healthy blink is complete and frequent enough to maintain good ocular surface health and to prevent Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, or MGD.

Partial and infrequent blinking are highly associated with reading and use of digital devices. Chronic use of digital devices impairs healthy gland function. Blink awareness and blink exercises can help our glands stay healthy with out giving up our digital devices. You can eat sweets as long as you brush and floss in between whiles.

Blink Eyes to prevent Dry Eyes

To promote healthy gland function, follow these simple steps on a regular basis:

  1. Close your eyes, then squeeze your eyes closed, then relax the squeeze but keep your eyes closed.
  2. Open your eyes and repeat this sequence 5 times in a row
  3. Perform the exercises three to four times a day.
  4. It can help if you set an alarm to remind you or if you associate the exercises with an activity that you repeat at regular intervals through out the day (e.g. using the rest room, eating, stepping away from your desk etc.)

Clean Your Eyelids And Your Teeth

Most of us grew up with our parents telling us to make sure we wash our face and brush our teeth. Why? Because keeping our face clean is essential to good hygiene, and brushing our teeth prevents the occurrence of plaque build-up, cavities and gum disease. Another natural part of our daily hygiene should be to clean our eyelids or, specifically, the lid margin. Cleaning the lid margin removes debris that can build up over time and contribute to gland obstruction, ultimately leading to Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, or MGD. Check with your Eye Care Professional that there is no reason you shouldn’t be cleaning your lids (e.g. recent eye surgery or current inflammation or infection). To properly clean your lids:

Clean lower lid to avoid Dry Eye


Clean upper lid to avoid Dry Eye


  1. Moisten the end of a cotton swab with mineral oil, petroleum jelly or even saline.
  2. Using your recently washed thumb and index finger, squeeze off any excess mineral oil, petroleum jelly or saline. The Q-tip should not show excess oil, petroleum jelly or saline
  3. Pull the lower lid down so that the lid margin is exposed and away from the eye so you cannot touch the eye by mistake. Visually divide the lower lid into three sections. Scrub gently each section 5 times. (Photo 1)
  4. For upper lid scrubs, grasp the upper lid so that the upper lid margin is visible. Use the same technique as for lower lid scrubs. (Photo 2)
  5. If you experience discomfort or pain of any sort, you are doing this incorrectly and should seek the advice of your eye care professional.