Evaluation of Meibomian gland structure and appearance after therapeutic Meibomian gland expression

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Clinical Relevance: Evaluating how Meibomian glands can change in appearance has the potential to advance the understanding of Meibomian gland health and may lead to enhanced diagnosis and therapy.
Background: This work aimed to investigate Meibomian gland appearance after therapeutic Meibomian gland expression.
Methods: Fifteen subjects attended three study visits over a two-week period. Meibography was performed before and after therapeutic Meibomian gland expression, the following day, and 2 weeks after expression. Six central glands were used to calculate Meibomian gland morphological parameters such as gland length ratio, gland width, gland area, gland tortuosity, and gland contrast.
A custom semi-automated image analysis software was used to calculate Meibomian gland metrics. Furthermore, a high-resolution imaging system was developed to capture clear images of the Meibomian glands, free of any artefacts, which were used for precise calculations of Meibomian gland contrast.
Results: The expression procedure had a significant impact on Meibomian gland contrast and length ratio immediately afterwards. The least square mean difference (95% CI) from baseline for Michelson contrast was −0.006 (−0.010, −0.001) and −1.048 (−2.063, −0.033) for simple contrast.  The least square mean ratio of the gland length ratio immediately after the expression to baseline
was 0.758 (0.618, 0.931).
Conclusions: Following therapeutic expression, Meibomian glands exhibit reduced brightness and length. However, within 24 h, they appear to recover and return to their baseline state, indicating a relatively short recovery time. This sheds light on whether meibography is solely focused on capturing gland structure or if it also captures acinar activity. The hyperreflective properties of lipids suggest that the decrease in contrast observed after expression could be attributed to a reduction in the visualisation of acini activity. A decrease in Meibomian gland length ratio implies that the loss of gland structure following treatment may be indicative of a temporary structural alteration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalClinical and Experimental Optometry
Early online date23 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Nov 2023


  • Function
  • meibography
  • Meibomian gland
  • structure
  • therapeutic expression


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