Updated on 

April 21, 2022

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Blepharitis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis refers to eyelid inflammation. It makes your eyes and eyelids swollen and red. Your eyelashes also become crusty.2

Though common, blepharitis can be difficult to treat and is often recurring. This is why it’s sometimes called chronic blepharitis.

Blepharitis isn’t contagious. It’s rarely dangerous and doesn’t seriously harm the eyes or vision. Nonetheless, it can look and feel uncomfortable.

There are two main types of eyelid inflammation:3

  1. Anterior eye inflammation develops on the outside of the eyes along the eyelashes. It can be caused by issues like dandruff or bacteria that naturally live on your skin.
  2. Posterior eyelid inflammation develops on the inner edges of the eyelids close to the eyes. It can be caused by issues like oil gland infections.

Both types of eyelid inflammation are common. The symptoms may also be the same. However, they’re easily treatable. 

What Causes Eyelid Inflammation?

Eyelid inflammation can occur for many reasons. 

You may be dealing with blepharitis if you have any of the following issues:4

  • Bacterial eye infection
  • Fungal eye infection
  • Oil gland infection
  • Eyelash mites
  • Eyelash lice
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction
  • Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff on the scalp or on the eyebrows)
  • An allergic reaction that affects the eyes
  • Rosacea (a common skin condition that can cause a red rash on the face, including around the eyes)

Symptoms of Blepharitis 

Blepharitis symptoms vary from person to person, depending on the cause. 

Generally, they include:2

  • Itchy eyes and eyelids
  • Swollen eyes and eyelids
  • Red eyes and eyelids
  • Burning eyes
  • Rosacea
  • Oily eyes
  • Feeling like something is stuck in your eyes
  • Crusty eyes
  • Crust along eyelashes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent blinking of the eyes

You may have many or very few of these symptoms. But they should get better within a few weeks with treatment. 

When to See a Doctor 

Most cases of blepharitis aren’t serious. In rare cases, it continues to get worse—especially if left untreated.

See an eye doctor if your blepharitis is worsening or isn’t resolving with treatment.2

Diagnosing Blepharitis

Both eye doctors and general doctors can diagnose blepharitis and determine the proper treatment. 

Since most symptoms are visible, a standard eye exam is all that is needed to diagnose the condition.

A blepharitis diagnosis is rarely a cause for concern. More often than not, it’s easily treatable.

Associated Complications

Some complications that can develop with blepharitis include:

  • Stye (a small, red, and painful lump that sits in or along the edges of the eyelid)
  • Clogged oil glands
  • Dry eyes
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Cornea problems
  • Excess tearing
  • Scarring of the skin surrounding the eyes

Treatment for Blepharitis

Treatment for blepharitis varies. 

There are several options, depending on the severity of your symptoms and any associated complications you may be experiencing.

Common treatments for blepharitis include:1

  • Overall eyelid hygiene
  • Gentle eyelid scrubs 
  • Warm compresses
  • Steroid treatment
  • Antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection
  • Treatment for other complications that cause or worsen blepharitis

If you have seborrheic dermatitis, daily cleansing with a gentle soap or shampoo (like baby shampoo) can help soothe the scalp.6 These products reduce oiliness and dead skin buildup.9

Meanwhile, if you have pink eye (conjunctivitis), an eye doctor can prescribe you eye drops. Washing your hands and treating any infections that caused conjunctivitis in the first place will help treat both pink eye and blepharitis.8

Regardless of the underlying condition or coexisting complications, treatment is necessary to resolve blepharitis.

What is the Prognosis for Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is very common and not typically a major health concern. In fact, ophthalmologists and optometrists report that 37 to 47 percent of their patients have blepharitis.7

If your blepharitis doesn’t heal within a few weeks, talk to your doctor.

Blepharitis Prevention & Management 

To help prevent and manage blepharitis, do your best to keep your eyes, skin, and hair clean.1 Blepharitis worsens with poor hygiene, so keeping clean is the best thing you can do.

Also, do your best to keep your fingers (and germs) out of your eyes. Wash your hands with soap and water before touching your face.1

Another way to prevent and manage blepharitis is to reduce dandruff. Using dandruff shampoos and moisturizing conditioners can help keep dry skin out of your eyes.1

If another issue like pink eye or a stye is causing blepharitis, treat that condition first to prevent it from recurring.

9 Cited Research Articles
  1. Blepharitis.” AOA.org.
  2. Blepharitis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 28 Mar. 2020.
  3. Blepharitis.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  4. Blepharitis: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  5. Boyd, Kierstan. “What Are Styes and Chalazia?American Academy of Ophthalmology, 18 Nov. 2021.
  6. Boyd, Kierstan. “What Is Blepharitis?American Academy of Ophthalmology, 13 Sept. 2021.
  7. Lemp, Michael A., and Kelly K. Nichols. “Blepharitis in the United States 2009: A Survey-Based Perspective on Prevalence and Treatment.” The Ocular Surface, Elsevier, 16 Feb. 2012.
  8. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 June 2020. 
  9. Seborrheic Dermatitis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 7 Apr. 2020.
Melody Huang is an optometrist and freelance health writer. Through her writing, Dr. Huang enjoys educating patients on how to lead healthier and happier lives. She also has an interest in Eastern medicine practices and learning about integrative medicine. When she’s not working, Dr. Huang loves reviewing new skin care products, trying interesting food recipes, or hanging with her adopted cats.
AnnaMarie’s work as a staff writer for Vision Center spans ophthalmology, optometry and basic optic procedures to preventative eye care. Inspired to help readers see the world more clearly, she writes about everything from finding the appropriate eyeglasses and contacts to treating and preventing eye diseases to getting corrective surgeries to improve vision.
https://www.visioncenter.org/author/annamarie/
Author: AnnaMarie Houlis  | UPDATED April 21, 2022
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Medical reviewer: Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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