To evaluate the morphological changes of the meibomian glands (MG) in patients with meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) compared to normal subjects by in vivo confocal microscopy and to investigate the relation of these changes to the clinical ocular surface findings and tear functions.
Twenty MGD patients and 15 normal subjects were recruited into this prospective study. Patients and controls underwent slit lamp examinations, tear film break-up time (BUT) measurements, fluorescein and Rose-Bengal stainings, Schirmer test I without anesthesia, tear evaporation rate assessment (TEROS), tear film lipid layer interferometry (DR-1), transillumination of the lids (meibography), MG expressibility test, and in vivo laser confocal microscopy of the lids (HRTII-RCM).
The BUT, DR-1 tear film lipid layer interferometry grades, fluorescein and Rose-Bengal staining scores, MG drop out grade in meibography, and MG expressibility grades were significantly worse in MGD patients compared to normal controls (p<0.05). The severity of both MG dropout and MG expressibility related significantly with the BUT, DR-1 grades, and TEROS (p<0.05). The mean density of acinar units of MGs as measured by HRTII-RCM was significantly lower in MGD patients (47.6±26.6/mm 2) than in control subjects (101.3±33.8/mm 2; p<0.05). The mean acinar unit diameter as determined by HRTII-RCM was significantly larger in MGD patients (98.2±53.3 μm) than in controls (41.6±11.9 μm; p<0.05). Both the density and diameter of MG acinar units related significantly with the severity of MG dropout and MG expression grades (p<0.05).
In vivo confocal microscopy can effectively demonstrate the morphological changes of the MG in patients with MGD. Glandular acinar density and acinar unit diameter seemed to be promising new parameters of in vivo confocal microscopy, which is significantly related to the clinical ocular surface and tear function findings of MGD.