A recent study examined the relationships between the severity of meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) and tear lactoferrin, conjunctival cell morphology and clinical features of ocular allergy.

Researchers divided 40 subjects into two groups: 21 with MGD with severely obstructed glands and 19 with minimal to no obstruction. Upon analysis, they found the first group had lower lactoferrin and allergy symptoms present compared with the second group, although no differences in conjunctival cell morphology existed between groups. They also associated greater lid margin telangiectasia with meibomian gland obstruction but not atrophy.

The study suggests that abnormal meibomian gland expressibility may be associated with inflammation on the adjacent ocular surface, linked to inflammatory infiltration to acinar cells in the accessory lacrimal glands, which may result in low lactoferrin secretion. Ultimately, this may also result in increased allergy and dry eye symptoms.

Researchers concluded that future studies should investigate if treatment to relieve meibomian gland obstruction can improve tear lactoferrin levels and also examine if anti-allergic medications that can improve symptoms of irritation in patients with more severe MGD.

Chao C, Tong L. Tear lactoferrin and features of ocular allergy in different severities of meibomian gland dysfunction. Optom Vis Sci. September 17, 2018. [Epub ahead of print].