Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids causing red, irritated, itchy eyelids and the formation of dandruff-like scales on eyelashes. It is a common eye disorder caused by either bacterial or a skin condition such as dandruff of the scalp or acne rosacea. It affects people of all ages. Although uncomfortable, blepharitis is not contagious and generally does not cause any permanent damage to eyesight.
Blepharitis is classified into two types:
- Anterior blepharitis occurs at the outside front edge of the eyelid where the eyelashes are attached.
- Posterior blepharitis affects the inner edge of the eyelid that comes in contact with the eyeball.
Individuals 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 signs and symptoms such as blurring of vision, missing or misdirected eyelashes, and inflammation of the cornea.
In many cases, good eyelid hygiene and a regular cleaning routine can control blepharitis. This includes frequent scalp and face washing, using warm compresses to soak the eyelids, and doing eyelid scrubs. In cases where a bacterial infection is a cause, various antibiotics and other medications may be prescribed along with eyelid hygiene.
What causes blepharitis?
Blepharitis can appear as greasy flakes or scales around the base of the eyelashes.
- Anterior blepharitis is commonly caused by bacteria or dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows. It may also occur due to a combination of factors, or less commonly may be the result of allergies.
- Posterior blepharitis can be caused by irregular oil production by the glands of the eyelids which creates a favorable environment for bacterial growth. It can also develop as a result of other skin conditions such as acne rosacea and scalp dandruff.
How is blepharitis treated?
Treatment depends on the type of blepharitis. The key to treating most types of blepharitis is keeping the lids clean and free of crusts. Limiting or stopping the use of eye makeup when treating blepharitis is often recommended, as its use will make lid hygiene more difficult.
- Warm compresses can be applied to loosen the crusts, followed by gentle scrubbing of the eyes with a mixture of water and baby shampoo or an over-the-counter lid cleansing product. In cases involving bacterial infection, an antibiotic may also be prescribed.
- If the glands in the eyelids are blocked, the eyelids may need to be massaged to clean out oil accumulated in the eyelid glands.
- Artificial tear solutions or lubricating ointments may be prescribed in some cases.
- The use of an anti-dandruff shampoo on the scalp can help.
- If you wear contact lenses, you may have to temporarily discontinue wearing them during treatment.
Some cases of blepharitis may require more complex treatment plans. Blepharitis seldom disappears completely. Even with successful treatment, relapses may occur.