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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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.
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.
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