The meibomian gland is the main reason why tears do not spill directly from the eye onto the cheek. This gland is located in the corner of the eyelid area, and it is responsible for producing sebum. Sebum is a type of oily substance that keeps the eyes from drying out. Thus, any person with a dysfunctional meibomian gland often suffers from dry eyes.
Dry meibomian glands are quite common, though this condition is often misdiagnosed. When detected early, dry eyes can be helped. However, most people do not seek any help for dry eyes until the eyes have become severely irritated. It is not uncommon for meibomian gland disorder to be diagnosed as classic "dry eye" disorder. When this type of misdiagnosis occurs, the meibomian glands are not allowed to heal properly.
Any person who is suffering from chronic dry eyes should consult a medical doctor. While over-the-counter "fake tear" solutions may help temporarily, a meibomian gland malfunction cannot be cured with this type of medication. Instead, dysfunctional meibomian glands must be treated in other, more effective, ways. Some treatments include applying a hot compress to the area and ingesting oral antibiotics. Aside from meibomian gland dysfunction, this area of the eye is not usually affected by other ailments.
There are more than 50 glands on the upper portion of the eyelid, and around 25 glands on the lower part of the eyelid. When these glands become swollen, the result is often a slight eyelid pain that can be unbearable in some cases. Upon further inspection, a medical examination will reveal raised bumps under and above the eyelid area. These bumps are actual meibomian glands that have become raised due to swelling.
Since almost every person has meibomian glands, nearly everyone is susceptible to meibomian gland dysfunction. However, most people go through life never experiencing this type of malfunction. As stated, those that do experience meibomian pain are often misdiagnosed. The glands themselves were named after Heinrich Meibom who discovered the meibomian glands. During his lifetime, Meibom wrote various medical treaties that explained, amongst other things, the function of the gland.
While Meibom contributed positively to our current understanding of the meibomian gland, he did not contribute to medicine in any other significant manner. Instead, Meibom spent the remainder of his life writing poetry. Regardless, thanks to Meibom's one major discovery, medical doctors now know why some people consistently deal with dry eyes.