A new study recently documented several morphological and functional changes to the meibomian glands (MGs) due to silicone hydrogel contact lens wear, some of which could help clinicians detect early meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).

Turkish researchers examined 173 eyes of 87 soft contact lens wearers and 103 eyes of 55 controls, grouping them based on duration of contact lens wear: less than three years, between three and seven years and more than seven years. They recorded Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) scores, slit lamp biomicroscopy findings, fluorescein staining, tear film break-up time (TBUT), Schirmer I test and meibography.

The results show significantly higher upper and lower eyelid meiboscores in the contact lens wearers compared with controls, as well as statistically significantly higher mean OSDI score, corneal staining scores, percentage of partial/complete gland loss and percentage of thickened and curled MG in upper/lower lids. Both the mean TBUT and MG expressibility were lower in contact lens wearers compared with the control groups. Such findings suggest evaporative dry eye in contact lens wearers, the researchers write in the study.

The study also found duration of wear impacted MG morphology, considering meiboscores were higher in patients who wore contact lenses for more than three year compared with those wearing lenses for less than three years. The earliest change the researchers could find was MG thickening in the upper eyelid—before deterioration of meiboscores or increase in gland dropout or partial gland scores, the study says. This was the only finding that had the highest diagnostic ability for MG dysfunction, they noted. Interestingly, the data shows worsening meibography findings after three years of lens wear, but stabilization after seven years. 

Uçakhan Ö, Arslanturk-Eren M. The role of soft contact lens wear on meibomian gland morphology and function. Eye Contact Lens. 2018 December 28, 2018. [Epub ahead of print].