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What is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis refers to low grade inflammation of the eyelids and obstruction of the oil glands of the eyelid (meibomian gland dysfunction), often in association with dandruff-like scaling of the skin at the base of the eyelashes. This condition is a very common cause of chronic low grade eye redness and discomfort, especially upon awakening.

Blepharitis can lead to a variety of symptoms and can contribute to dryness of the eyes.

Why does it occur?

Most conditions are secondary to your body’s chemistry and consistency of the oils that your body produces. People that have dandruff or oily skin are more likely to have Blepharitis. Blepharitis is also extremely common in patients that have a skin condition called Rosacea, which in an inflammatory skin condition that causes the oil glands of the skin of the face, nose, and eyelids (Ocular Rosacea) to get clogged. Bacterial infection, commonly with staphylococci, or louse infection can lead to Blepharitis.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include:

  • Irritation, itching, or burning of the skin at the edge of the eyelid
  • Crusty deposits on the edge of the eyelid that flake off
  • Red eyelid edges
  • Matted eyelashes, especially in the morning
  • Lashes that fall out
  • Dry, gritty eyes
  • Tender eyelids
  • Watery eye

How Is Blepharitis Treated?

Blepharitis cannot be cured. However, most cases can be controlled with good hygiene which consists of the frequent use of hot compresses (in every case) and meticulous cleaning of the eyelid scales (when present). In addition, the use of supplemental tear drops and nuturitional supplementation with fish oils can further improve the symptoms associated with this disorder.

Hot compresses should be applied, with mild pressure and massage, to the upper and lower eyelids of both eyes for at least 1 or 2 minutes. A clean washcloth can be used for this purpose. A convenient time to do this treatment is during the daily shower.

The eyelashes can be cleaned with a self-made dilute solution of water and Johnson’s baby shampoo. Alternatively, there are a number of excellent lid hygiene products on the market that make it very easy to maintain very clean eyelids.

The addition of fish oils (omega-3 fatty acids) in the diet or via supplements can be effective in improving the quality of the oil glands in the eyelids.

In resistant cases it is sometimes necessary to use medication eye drops and oral antibiotics to control Blepharitis. The use of these therapies should be prescribed and closely monitored by your ophthalmologist.

How long will the effects last?

For some people, an inflamed eyelid may never completely go away. For others, cleansing and medicine may cure the problem. Regular cleansing may help keep Blepharitis from coming back.

Copyright © April 2016 American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus®

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