Blepharitis is an eye condition that affects the eyelids. It can produce clumping and stickiness around the eyelashes.
It is caused by inflammation around the base of the eyelashes. There is a range of treatments that can reduce symptoms, including home remedies.
In this article, we will explain what causes blepharitis, how it is treated, and how it can be prevented.
Blepharitis can affect anyone of any age and is classified as either acute or chronic; chronic adult blepharitis is the most common form. For most purposes, blepharitis means a chronic form of eyelid inflammation.
The condition makes your eyelids red, itchy, and a little swollen. The bases of your eyelashes may look scaly. You might also notice:
- Feeling like something is in your eye
- A burning feeling in your eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision
- Dry eyes
- Red eyes
- Watery eyes
- Crusty eyelashes when you wake up in the morning
What Causes Blepharitis?
Everyone has some bacteria on their skin. Some people, however, have more bacteria at the base of their eyelashes than other people. This can cause dandruff-like flakes to form. Also, some people have problems with oil glands in their eyelids, leading to blepharitis. Other times, blepharitis may result from an over-population of microscopic mites, known as Demodex, living inside the eyelash follicles.
Things that cause blepharitis include:
- Excess bacteria
- A blocked oil gland on your eyelid
- Hormone problems
- Infection with a virus
- Skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, and eczema
- Tiny insects called mites
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms. They might also:
- Look closely at your eyelids, your eyelashes, and the texture of your skin
- Use a magnifying device to look at the edges of your eyelids and the openings of the glands there
- Check that your eyes are making enough tears
- Take a sample of material from your eyelids to check for bacteria
Keeping Blepharitis Under Control
It is very important to keep your eyelids, skin and hair clean. This will help keep your blepharitis symptoms under control. Use baby shampoo diluted in warm water to gently scrub the eyelids/eyelashes daily when you have crusting present
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for blepharitis. But you might be able to manage and treat it by taking care of your eyelids. Treatments include:
Warm compresses can help soften crust and loosen oily debris. Follow these steps:
- Wet a clean washcloth in warm (not hot) water.
- Wring it out and place it over your closed eyelids for 5 minutes.
- Wet it again as necessary to keep it warm.
Keeping your eyelids clean may also ease symptoms:
Wet a clean washcloth with warm water and wring it out until somewhat dry. Place the washcloth over your closed eyes for at least 1 minute. Wet the washcloth as often as needed so it stays warm. This will help loosen the flakes sticking around your eyelashes. It also helps keep nearby oil glands from clogging.
There’s also an electronic device that uses heat and massage to unclog the oil glands in your eyelids. The treatments are done in the office by your ophthalmologist.
Soak a clean washcloth, cotton swab (Q-tip) applicator, or lint-free pad in baby shampoo diluted in warm water. Then use it to gently scrub the base of your eyelashes. Scrub for about 15 seconds.
Your ophthalmologist may have you use an antibiotic ointment on your eyes. Put a small amount of ointment on a clean fingertip or a cotton swab (Q-tip). Gently apply the ointment to the base of your eyelashes. Do this just before bedtime, or as your doctor recommends. Your doctor might also prescribe an antibiotic medicine for you to take by mouth.
Artificial tears or steroid eye drops may reduce redness, swelling and dry eye. Your ophthalmologist might prescribe an antibiotic eye drop to help the oil glands work better.
Skin and eyelid hygiene
It is very important to keep your eyelids, skin and hair clean. This keeps your blepharitis symptoms under control. Carefully wash your eyelashes every day with baby shampoo diluted in warm water. Also, wash your hair, scalp and eyebrows with an antibacterial shampoo. There are some new antiseptic sprays you can use on the skin that keep bacteria from growing too much.
The inflammation of blepharitis can lead to complications such as:
- Loss of eyelashes
- Excess tears
- Dry eyes, possibly raising your chances of a cornea infection
- Clogged glands that might get infected (stye) or form a lump (chalazion)
- Scarring on your eyelids
- Cornea inflammation
A few lifestyle changes might help keep blepharitis away.
- Keep your eyelids clean.
- Remove all eye makeup before bed.
- Don’t use eyeliner on the back edges of your eyelids, behind the lashes.
- If you’re in the early stages of treating blepharitis, prevent further irritation by not using makeup.
- Once you start to use it again, replace products that you use in or near your eyelids. They may be contaminated.