Blepharitis, or eyelid inflammation, is a condition that is characterized by swollen eyelids often accompanied by sensations of itchiness, irritation, redness, burning or stinging in the eyes. In addition, bacteria and oily particles collect along the edge of the eyelid at the base of the eyelashes. In some cases, blepharitis can be an ongoing (chronic) condition.
Symptoms of blepharitis include:
- Changes to the eyelids, such as redness, swelling, itchiness or a greasy appearance
- Crusty eyelashes after sleep
- Eyelashes that stick together
- Loss of eyelashes
- Eyelashes that grow in the wrong direction
- Flaking of the skin around the eyes
- Burning, gritty or stinging feeling in the eyes
- Red or watery eyes
- Increased blinking
If left untreated, blepharitis can lead to other problems, such as scarring of the eyelids, eyelids that turn in or out or injury to the cornea (the surface of the eye) from an inflamed eyelid or misdirected eyelash.
Cleaning the eyelids regularly and taking care of them may reduce these symptoms. If they don’t improve or if they worsen, contact your doctor.
Causes of Blepharitis
Doctors aren’t certain what causes blepharitis, but it can occur with some types of skin conditions (e.g., acne rosacea), dry eyes or a bacterial infection. In addition, blepharitis may be more likely to occur if you have one or more of the following:
- Allergic reactions to contact lens solutions, eye medications or makeup
- Dandruff of the eyebrows and scalp (seborrheic dermatitis)
- Mites or lice in the eyelashes
- Oil glands in the eyelids that are clogged or not working properly
- Rosacea, a skin condition that causes redness and pimple-like bumps on the face
Treatments for Blepharitis
Mild cases of blepharitis can sometimes be treated with good hygiene (washing your eyes) and placing warm compresses on the closed eyes. If that doesn’t reduce the symptoms, you doctor may suggest other treatments, such as:
- Antibiotic cream, ointment or eye drops to clear up a bacterial infection
- Steroid eye drops to reduce inflammation in the eyelid
- Medications that affect the immune system
- Treatments for other conditions that may be contributing to blepharitis, such as dandruff or rosacea
- Changes to your diet, such as eating more omega fatty acids
Although these treatments can help, blepharitis rarely goes away completely. If you have this condition, you will likely need to continue cleaning your eyelids daily. If the symptoms worsen, contact your doctor.