Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid. It results in swelling of the eyelids, and it's often caused by a bacterial infection or a skin condition. Blepharitis is a common eye condition. There are two types.

  • Anterior blepharitis occurs where the eyelashes are attached (outside front edge of the eyelid).

  • Posterior blepharitis affects the inner edge of the eyelid that touches the eye.

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In addition to swollen eyelids, blepharitis symptoms can include thick, yellow, dandruff-like scales that stick to the eyelid. There may be oily patches on the eyelid. The eyelashes may be crusted with dandruff-like scales when you wake up from sleeping. The irritated area may itch. The eyelids may be red. The eyes can be red and burn or sting. The eyes may tear a lot or be dry. You can become sensitive to light or have blurred vision. Symptoms of blepharitis can cause you to feel irritable.

Blepharitis is a chronic condition that may be hard to fully cure. Even with successful treatment, it can come back. Good hygiene and home treatments (in the Home care section below) can help prevent and improve your condition.

Causes

Causes of blepharitis may include:

  • Problems with the oil glands in the eyelid (meibomian glands)

  • Dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows (seborrheic dermatitis) from bacteria

  • Acne rosacea. This is a skin condition that causes redness of the face.

  • Eyelash mites. These are tiny animals in the eyelash follicles.

  • Allergic reactions to cosmetics or medicines

Home care

Medicine

The healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic eye drops or ointment, artificial tears, or steroid eye drops. Follow all instructions for using these medicines. If you have pain, take medicine as advised by the healthcare provider.

General care

  • Wash your hands carefully with soap and clean, running water before and after caring for your eyes.

  • Apply a warm compress or a warm, moist washcloth to the eyelids for 1 minute, 2 to 3 times a day, to loosen the crust. Then, wipe away scales or crust from the eyelids.

  • After applying the warm compress, gently scrub the base of the eyelashes for almost 15 seconds per eyelid. To do this, close your eyes and use a moist eyelid cleansing wipe, clean washcloth, or cotton swab. Ask your healthcare provider about products (such as gentle baby shampoo) to use to help clean the eyelids.

  • You may be instructed to gently massage your eyelids to help unblock the eyelid glands. Follow all instructions given by the healthcare provider.

  • Unless told otherwise, on a regular basis, with eyes closed, clean your eyelids as directed by the healthcare provider. Blepharitis can be an ongoing problem.

  • Don't wear eye makeup until the inflammation goes away, or as directed by your healthcare provider.

  • Unless told otherwise, stop using contact lenses until you complete treatment for the condition.

  • Wash your hands regularly to help prevent dirt and bacteria from coming in contact with your eyelid.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Your healthcare provider may refer you to an eye specialist (an optometrist or ophthalmologist) for further assessment and treatment.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Increase in redness of the white part of the eye

  • Increase in swelling, redness, irritation, or pain of the eyelids

  • Eye pain

  • Change in vision (trouble seeing or blurring)

  • Drainage (pus, blood) from the eyelid

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

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