To evaluate the thickness of the tear film lipid layer (TFLL) in meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) using a high-resolution optical microscope.
The Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) and meibum grade score (MGS) were used to classify 190 subjects into four groups: normal (OSDI<13 and MGS<10), mixed (OSDI≥13 and MGS<10), asymptomatic MGD (OSDI<13 and MGS≥10), and MGD (OSDI≥13 and MGS≥10). The high-resolution optical microscope was used to capture TFLL images in vivo. The histograms of TFLL thickness were analyzed and curve-fitted using probability density functions (PDFs).
There were three obvious peaks in the distributions of TFLL across the groups. From the curve-fitting process, the main outcomes are displayed according to each Gaussian function with the position of peak (μ) and the summed percentage within the range of standard deviation (σ). The normal group had distribution as follows: 33.3 ± 0.005 nm, 26%; 53.9 ± 0.019 nm, 40%; 79.4 ± 0.064 nm, 12%. The mixed group had a distribution as follows: 33.8 ± 0.004 nm, 32%; 53.1 ± 0.115 nm, 21%; 71.7 ± 0.232 nm, 27%. The asymptomatic MGD group had a distribution as follows: 33.5 ± 0.004 nm, 20%; 49.2 ± 0.041 nm, 25%; 62.9 ± 0.063 nm, 47%. The MGD group had a distribution as follows: 34.3 ± 0.004 nm, 34%; 53.7 ± 0.022 nm, 28%; 74.9 ± 0.060 nm, 16%.
The MGD and mixed groups had the largest percentages of TFLL thicknesses fall within the thinnest modes (peak 34.3 and 33.8 nm, respectively). These data show that measures of central tendency (e.g., averages, medians) do not fully appreciate the variable distributions of TFLL across disease spectra.

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