The tear film is a complex system that is comprised of the:

  1. Mucin layer:  this mucous layer provides a “sticky” foundation and acts as a barrier to the eye surface
  2. Aqueous layer:  this “watery” layer is produced by the lacrimal glands and provides moisture to the eye
  3. Lipid layer:  this “oily” layer is produced by the meibomian glands and prevents the tears from evaporating

Each component need to work in balance and harmony to keep the tear film stable.  When you have an imbalance in these layers, the vision and comfort of your eyes are affected. During your dry eye exam, our doctors will determine what is disrupting your tear film (which is causing your dry eye) and will advise you on the best course of treatment to provide you relief.

Tear Film Compoments

If you imagine the tear film like you would building a house, the mucin layer is the foundation, the aquaeous layer is the beams, and the lipid layer is the roof.

For people who are diagnosed with dry eye caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), a deficiency in the lipid layer is similar to having a leaky roof or having holes in the roof.  With holes in the roof, you wouldn’t be able to maintain stable temperature in your house with your air conditioner thermostat. Cool or hot air would escape out.

When your glands are clogged and are not producing enough lipid layer, your tears may evaporate too quickly. You have to fix the roof (the lipid layer) for the house (the tear film) to stay structurally sound.

Typically, our doctors will address one or a combination of the following to treat your dry eye:

  • Inflammation of the lid and/or of the ocular surface
  • Quality or quantity of tears
  • Blockage of the meibomian glands