What is Blepharitis?

30 April 2019

Author: Jacci

What is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is an inflammatory eye condition that affects the eyelids; often appearing as dry dandruff like flakes around the eyelashes.

It’s a very common condition which is caused by bacteria and contrary to some beliefs is not contagious. Although eyes can become sore and red, it does not cause any damage to eyesight.

Blepharitis is categorised into two types:

  • Anterior blepharitis: Affecting the outside of the eyelid where the eyelashes attach.
  • Posterior blepharitis: Affecting the inner edge of the eyelid that meets the eyeball.

Causes of blepharitis

It is most common for children and individuals aged over 50 to experience symptoms of blepharitis. One of the reasons for this is due to the natural aging of the eye. In these cases the glands in the eyelids can become blocked causing the eyes to feel gritty and dry.

It is hard to pinpoint a main cause of blepharitis; however simple factors such as allergic reactions to cosmetics or experiencing dandruff on the scalp can be related to the onset of the condition.

There are several factors that contribute to blepharitis. These include:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction (malfunctioning oil gland)
  • Dry eyes
  • Parasites (eyelash mites)
  • Reaction to medication/ cosmetics

Symptoms of blepharitis

For many people, blepharitis causes only minor irritation and itching. However, in some cases it can cause more severe symptoms, such as blurry vision, missing eyelashes and inflammation of other eye tissue, such as the cornea.

By scratching and rubbing the affected area, secondary symptoms may occur. It’s advised to try and keep the area untouched and clean as much as possible.

Blepharitis symptoms and signs include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Red, sore or swollen eyes
  • A gritty, burning or stinging sensation in the eyes
  • lid cysts
  • Eyelids that appear greasy
  • Itchy eyelids
  • Flaking of the skin around the eyes
  • Eyelid sticking
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eyelashes that grow abnormally
  • Loss of eyelashes

Is there a cure for blepharitis?

In most cases, good hygiene can help control blepharitis. Washing the scalp and face regularly, using a warm compress to gently soak the eyelids is good practise to keep inflammation down.

When a bacterial infection accompanies blepharitis however, antibiotics will be required.

Typically, blepharitis treatments include:

  • Medicated eye drops
  • Topical medicines can be prescribed by your doctor to destroy bacteria on the eyelids. A week’s course of eye drops will usually suffice to rid the lids of blepharitis causing bacteria. These should be administered according to your doctor’s guidance.
  • Warm compresses
  • A simple way to alleviate the symptoms of blepharitis is with frequent use of warm compresses. This technique will unblock glands and loosen the dry clusters that appear on the eyelids.
  • Warming packs are available to buy over the counter, which are simply warmed up in the microwave. Alternatively, a flannel or cotton-wool pad can be applied the same way- ensure that a new pad is used each time.
  • To use, gently place the warm compress on the edge of your closed eyelid for five minutes. Let the compress soak into the affected area until the dry clusters become loose and detached easily. Repeat daily if required. 
  • Antibiotics
  • Posterior blepharitis or blepharitis associated with rosacea can be treated with a course of antibiotics.
  • These will be prescribed by your doctor, who will advise you on how to take the medication as well as the side effects and restrictions.

Blepharitis and contact lenses 

For those who rely on visual aids on a daily basis should be aware of the complications associated with blepharitis.

Wearing contact lenses when eyelid inflammation occurs can result in a build-up of bacteria and in turn cause potentially more serious eye conditions to develop.

When blepharitis strikes, contact lenses should be avoided until the symptoms have cleared.  

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