A sensation of dry and irritated eyes in the mornings does not necessarily mean that one has dry eyes from lack of tear production. Many times, it suggests that there may be a problem with the meibomian glands along the eyelid margins.
The meibomian glands secrete oils which help to keep the tear film stable on the surface of the eye. In meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), the secretion of the meibomian glands are thickened and inflamed. The secretions seep onto the eye surface when you sleep, causing redness, irritation and discharge. After waking, the blinking of the eyelids slowly washes the secretions away, and the eyes begin to feel better. This condition is also known as meibomitis or posterior blepharitis.