August 22, 2018
Immune cells that normally rush in to protect the eyes from infection might actually be disrupting moisturizing glands and causing dry eye, according to research released recently by the Duke Eye Center.
“This study shows that some forms of Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) are inflammatory diseases, and our studies in mice confirm what we see in the tears of people with blocked glands,” says Duke ophthalmologist Preeya K. Gupta, M.D., a co-author of the study published July 25 in the journal Science Translational Medicine. “This pathway may be a new target for therapeutic agents to help treat patients suffering from dry eye disease and MGD.”
Whether brought on by allergies, contact lenses or the tendency to blink less while using computers and other electronic devices, dry eye disease is linked to blockages in the glands of the eyelid, called Meibomian glands.
These glands secrete oils at lid opening each time you blink to retain moisture and maintain a healthy eye.
Although doctors can prescribe eyelid scrubs and anti-inflammatory drops to relieve some symptoms, scientists don’t know why the glands malfunction to begin with.
The Duke researchers found that immune cells called neutrophils, which rush in to relieve inflamed eyes, might also be disrupting the moisturizing glands.
In some people, MGD is a visible condition, marked by small off-white beads along the eyelid that look like plugged pores or whiteheads. For many others, the MGD is undetected and undiagnosed.
“In addition to providing new treatment strategies, the presence of neutrophils in the eye could provide a biomarker to detect the disease or measure its severity,” says Daniel R. Saban, Ph.D., senior author of the study.