Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids in which they become red, irritated and itchy and dandruff-like scales form on the eyelashes. It is a common eye disorder caused by either bacteria or a skin condition, such as dandruff of the scalp or rosacea. It affects people of all ages. Although uncomfortable, blepharitis is usually not contagious and generally does not cause any permanent damage to eyesight.
Blepharitis is classified into two types:
People with blepharitis may experience a gritty or burning sensation in their eyes, excessive tearing, itching, red and swollen eyelids, dry eyes or crusting of the eyelids. For some people, blepharitis causes only minor irritation and itching. However, it can lead to more severe symptoms, such as blurring of vision, missing or misdirected eyelashes, and inflammation of other eye tissue, particularly the cornea. By touching and rubbing the irritated area, a secondary infection can also result. By touching and rubbing the irritated area, a secondary infection can also result.
In many cases, good hygiene can help control blepharitis. This includes frequently washing the scalp and face, using warm compresses to soak the eyelids and scrubbing the eyelids. When a bacterial infection is causing or accompanies blepharitis, antibiotics and other medications may be prescribed.
Anterior blepharitis is commonly caused by bacteria (staphylococcal blepharitis) or dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows (seborrheic blepharitis). These bacteria are commonly found on the face and lids, but if they become excessive, or the lid area reacts poorly to their presence, an infection may occur. Less commonly, allergies or a mite infestation of the eyelashes can cause anterior blepharitis.
Posterior blepharitis can occur when the glands of the eyelids irregularly produce oil (meibomian blepharitis). This creates a favorable environment for bacterial growth. Posterior blepharitis can also develop as a result of other skin conditions, such as rosacea and scalp dandruff.
Blepharitis can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Testing, with special emphasis on the eyelids and front surface of the eyeball, may include:
Evaluation of the quantity and quality of tears to check for any abnormalities. An optometrist can determine the type of blepharitis based on the appearance of the eyelid margins. The different types and symptoms are as follows:
Treatment depends on the type of blepharitis. The key to treating most types of blepharitis is keeping the lids clean and free of crusts.
Applying warm compresses can loosen the crusts. Then gently scrub the eyelids with a mixture of water and baby shampoo or an over-the-counter lid-cleansing product. (See the Self-care section below for step-by-step directions on soaking and scrubbing the eyelids.)
In cases involving bacterial infection, an antibiotic may be prescribed.
People with blepharitis might find the following helpful:
Some blepharitis cases may require more complex treatment plans. Blepharitis seldom disappears completely. Even with successful treatment, blepharitis may reoccur.
Directions for a Warm Soak of the Eyelids: