For your eyes only: MGD and its symptoms, causes, and how to use hot and cold gel packs to relieve it

Post In: Eye Discomfort
For your eyes only: MGD and its symptoms, causes, and how to use hot and cold gel packs to relieve it

Our eye muscles are astonishing. They’re the fastest and most active muscles in our body, capable of blinking 17 times per minute on average, with each blink lasting 100-150 milliseconds. 

Eye-fluttering may be a subtle form of flirting to some, but it has a more important purpose: to spread mucus and oil that keeps our eyes moist and to cleanse them of irritants. Both of these are vital to maintaining healthy eyes. 

Unfortunately, having unhealthy eyes is more common than you think. For instance, 

one of the most common eye problems worldwide, meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), affects an estimated 35.8 percent of the population globally, with more cases likely left undiagnosed. 

So, don’t blink now, as we will walk you through the basics of MGD and the proven effective home remedies to treat its symptoms in this article.

What is MGD?

Our eyelids are filled with meibomian glands that secrete oils to the surface of the eye and keep tears from evaporating too fast. There are up to 40 meibomian glands in the upper section of our eyelids and about 30 in the lower area. 

Meibum, the oil that these glands secrete, along with mucus and water, make up the layers of our tear film, which is mainly responsible for keeping our eyes moist and clean.

MGD occurs when these glands malfunction, for instance, when there is blockage, an abnormality or changes in the quality or quantity of the meibum. As a result, the tear film on the eye surface becomes dry. 

Dry eyes is one of the most common symptoms of MGD — an eye condition that’s also closely linked to blepharitis, or eyelid inflammation.

Medical experts note that these conditions may overlap, but it is unclear which disorder causes others to develop. It is likely that MGD causes blepharitis, leading to dry eyes. It is also possible that having dry eyes could lead to blepharitis, and if left untreated, may turn into MGD.  

What are the symptoms of MGD?

Dry eyes is considered the most common symptom of MGD and other ocular problems. According to research, 86 percent of those with dry eyes have the disorder. 

An estimated 7 percent of women and 4 percent of men aged over 50 suffer from dry eyes in the U.S. and Australia, studies show. Asians, notably Japanese, recorded up to 33 percent of those suffering from dry eyes, according to a self-diagnosis survey. 

Most people suffering from dry eyes often do not seek medical help, with 25 percent of the figures using over-the-counter eye drops to ease their symptoms.

Apart from dry eyes, irritation and redness, MGD also results in itching, a burning sensation, heavy eyelids, teary eyes and intermittent visual blurring. Patients also reported either crusting on the lashes or of eyelids being sealed shut, especially in the morning when they wake up.


What are the risk factors for MGD? 

A 2011 study which sought to understand MGD further cited possible risk factors:

  • Age – The elderly seem to be more susceptible as the meibomian glands deteriorate over time. As we age, we produce less tears. 
  • Ethnicity – A New Zealand study found that Asians are more susceptible than Caucasians to dry eyes. This is likely due to a generally less efficient meibomian gland function and higher incomplete blinking degrees.  
  • Other health conditions  Higher meibomian cholesterol ester levels are associated with MGD, and so are health issues that affect androgen production (i.e PCOS and menopause). Androgen receptors are found in the meibomian glands and are said to impact how these glands function.

Allergies, infection and autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rosacea and Sjorgen’s syndrome are also linked to higher susceptibility to MGD.  

  • Medications  There are certain medications associated with MGD development. Antidepressants and those that disrupt natural oil production in the body, such as antiandrogens, estrogen replacement therapy, anti-acne and anti-aging creams that contain retinoids, are included in the list.  
  • Environmental factors – Humidity, geography and air quality all exacerbate dry eyes, as reduced temperature leads to higher meibom viscosity that further accentuates obstruction in the glands.
  • Visual tasks – Activities that cause repetitive strain on the eyes increase the risk of MGD. Computer users often have a lesser blink rate, further worsening MGD symptoms.  
  • Contact lenses – According to a 1980 study, contact lenses disrupt the structure and function of meibomian glands. 

What are the available home treatments for MGD? 

A warm compress is generally recommended for MGD, but in some instances, a cold compress can work to alleviate the symptoms, too. Let’s understand how each treatment impacts MGD symptoms to know which may be better for your specific condition.

The benefits of a warm eye compress

Using a warm eye compress provides the following benefits: 

    • Stimulates the oil production of the glands.
    • Helps prevent glands from evaporating too quickly. 
    • Improves blood circulation.
    • Relaxes the eyes.
    • Softens and removes obstruction.
    • Allows for a more restful sleep.

The benefits of a cold eye compress

Alternatively, a cold eye compress provides these benefits:

  • Reduces irritation. 
  • Relieves burning and itching sensation.
  • Eases eye strain.
  • Alleviates swelling and inflammation.

How to apply a warm eye compression

Because the lack of moisture is one of the main causative factors of dry eyes, applying a moist warm compress to the eye is the solution, right? Not entirely. MGD results in lack of meibum, and not water. In addition, a wet, warm compress may impede the efficacy of this heat-based treatment. 

Removing the damp cloth prematurely can cause your meibum to stiffen again before it could completely loosen from the ducts. 

Using a dry warm compression 

If you want an efficient delivery of heat therapy to your MGD-stricken eyes, or just hate having too much water going into your eyes, opt for a dry, warm compress. 

For your safety and best eye warming experience, we recommend this Magic Gel Eye Mask that comes with two gel packs you can use alternately. 

Not only is it comfortable to wear, but this mask comes lined with an insulator to keep your eyes from burning. To warm the gels, use hot water and not a microwave to prevent thermal injury. Microwave heating is usually uneven, with some portions hotter than others. This could potentially cause your eyes to burn if you’re not careful.   

How to apply warm gel packs for MGD

Here is a simple method for treating MGD with Magic Gel Eye Masks:

  1. Boil water in a kettle.
  2. Pour boiling water in a wide bowl. Warm the gel pack by placing it in the bowl. 
  3. Pull out the gel pack and let it to settle for a few minutes. Use the clip that goes with the Magic Gel Eye Mask. This allows the pack to warm evenly, making it safe for use on your eyes.
  4. Insert the gel into the insulator-lined eye mask and seal the Velcro tape. 
  5. Wear the mask for no longer than 10 minutes.
  6. Relax while the eye mask works its magic on your eyes.

How to apply cold eye gel packs 

A cold eye compress can be very helpful for those who suffer from eye strains or those whose eyes are irritated, swollen or inflamed. 

Here’s how to use the Magic Gel Eye Mask to apply cold compression on your peepers: 

  1. Pop the gel packs in the fridge. 
  2. Remove the gel after two hours. 
  3. Insert the gel into the insulator-lined eye mask and seal the Velcro tape. 
  4. Leave the eye mask on for 10 minutes.
  5. Relax while the eye mask works its magic on your eyes.
  6. Do not leave the mask on for a long time to prevent ice burn. 

Warm or cold compress: Which is better for MGD?

There is no clear cut answer to this question. Trying them both can help you determine which one works better for your condition. 

Start with a cold compress for around five minutes. If it didn’t do anything to relieve your discomfort, apply a warm compress.  

In the end, it will depend on the symptom you want addressed. For instance, if you often wake up with crusty eyes, it is best to use warm compress to soften and ease the blockage. Warm compress promotes blood circulation and stimulates the glands to produce more meibum. But if your eyes are inflamed or swelling, it is best to use a cold compress, as warm compress would exacerbate inflammation. 

If these treatments fail to improve your condition, seek an appointment with your ophthalmologist.


Our eyes are the most active organs in our body, but they are also one of the most sensitive. As such, treating eye problems involve tender, loving care, and what better way to do it than with this eye mask that combines both efficacy and your safety in mind. 

What do you think about using gel packs to ease eye discomfort? Message us or write your comments below. We guarantee you won’t be seenzoned.

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