Researchers continue to explore myriad options to relieve the symptoms of meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), both alone and in tandem with other treatments. A team of researchers in Turkey suggests a new option may be effective: adding topical azithromycin (AZ) to systemic AZ treatment regimens.

The investigation evaluated the efficacy of topical AZ supplementation to systemic AZ, warm compresses, artificial tears and lid scrubs for the treatment of MGD.

The study enrolled 85 patients with stage 4 MGD and divided them into two groups. Group one included 55 patients who were approximately 48 years old (25 men and 30 women) and who used preservative-free topical 1.5% AZ as a unit dose. The 30 patients in the second group (12 men and 18 women) were approximately 50 years old and were not prescribed topical AZ. Both groups were prescribed artificial tear eye drops and systemic AZ. The researchers evaluated the patients’ fluorescein tear film break-up time (TBUT), corneal staining, ocular surface disease index (OSDI) symptom scores and meibum quality at baseline and after one and three months.

During the follow up visits, the topical AZ group showed significant improvement in TBUT, corneal staining scores, meibum quality and OSDI scores compared with baseline. For the patients who didn’t take topical AZ, only their OSDI scores and meibum quality showed substantial improvement after treatment compared with baseline.

“These results demonstrate clinically and statistically greater improvement in MGD-associated signs and symptoms with the addition of topical AZ to the systemic treatment,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

Ciloglu E, Özcan AA, Incekalan T, Unal F. The role of topical azithromycin in the treatment of meibomian gland dysfunction. Cornea. December 12, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].