Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a common condition that causes inflammation (irritation) of the eyelids.

What causes blepharitis?

Blepharitis is caused when the small glands in the eyelids, which produce oils, become blocked. This causes dry, sore, irritates eyes and eyelids. It is more common is people who have skin conditions like eczema, acne and rosacea.

Blepharitis tends to be a long-term, ongoing condition. Although it can occur at any age, it tends to be more common in older people. 

What are the symptoms of blepharitis?

Blepharitis can cause:

  • red, sore, swollen eyelids
  • itching, irritation, discomfort around the eyes
  • dry, burning, gritty eyes
  • tiny flakes (like dandruff) at the bottom of the eyelashes.  

How is blepharitis treated?

The aim of treatment is to keep the eyelids clean, treat any infection and avoid irritants to the eye. Because blepharitis does not go away completely, regular cleaning of the eyelids is required. This involves applying a warm compress to the eyelid to loosen the crusts, followed by eyelid massage and light cleaning of the eyelid. 

  • Warm compress: hold cotton facial pads soaked in warm water against your closed eyelids for 5 to minutes. Repeat this twice a day. This helps melt the oils in the blocked glands, allowing the oils to flow more freely.
  • Eyelid massage: to massage eyelids, use the tip of your finger firmly stroke the skin of the top eyelids in a circular motion. This will help unblock the oil glands and squeeze out the oils.
  • Eyelid cleaning: Make up a solution of baby shampoo (1 part baby shampoo and 10 parts water). Dip a clean cotton bud in the solution and clean away any crusts present on the eyelashes and rub along the eyelids. Use a clean cotton bud for each eyelid. Repeat this process twice a day.

If you have dry eyes, use an eye lubricant such as artificial tears, to keep the eyes moist.

If your eyes become increasingly red or painful, or your sight becomes blurred see your doctor. You may need antibiotic or steroid eyedrops.

While your eyes are irritated and inflamed, avoid using eye makeup such as eye shadow, eyeliner and other cosmetics around the eye. Also avoid using contact lenses should until the condition is under control.

Learn more

Blepharitis The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists
Blepharitis
NHS choices
Facts about blepharitis National Eye Institute

References

  1. Causes, complications and treatment of a red eye BPAC, August 2013
  2. Blepharitis The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists