Blepharitis

What is blepharitis?

If you have blepharitis, there is inflammation of the inside or outside of your eyelids due to bacteria or oily flakes at the base of your eyelashes. Blepharitis is very common and can cause other eye-related conditions, such as:

  • Stye. Acute infection of the oil glands of the eyelid can cause a red, painful bump to develop on the lid.
  • Chalazion. Sometimes after a stye has resolved, it leaves behind a hard lump caused by inflamed oil glands. When a chalazion is accompanied by infection, it can also be red and painful.
  • Problems with eye tears. If you have excessive tearing or dry eye due to abnormal production of oil from the glands in your eyelids, it can affect your “tear film” and increase your chance of developing an infection of your cornea.

What causes blepharitis?

There are multiple possible causes of blepharitis, and they can vary depending on where it develops.

  • Bacteria (such as Staphylococcus) on the outside front of the eyelid, where the lashes attach, can cause anterior blepharitis.
  • Scalp dandruff that collects along the edge of the eyelid can also cause anterior blepharitis.
  • Problems with the oil glands on the inner eyelid (the wet part against your eye) can cause posterior blepharitis. People with two other skin disorders—acne rosacea (red, inflamed skin) and scalp dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis)—have a greater chance of developing posterior blepharitis.

What are the symptoms of blepharitis?

If you have blepharitis, you might feel:

  • Like you have something in your eye
  • Red, swollen eyelids
  • Eye redness
  • A burning feeling in your eye or on your eyelid
  • Excessively teary eyes
  • Itching
  • Greater sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision
  • Frothy tears
  • Dry eyes
  • Crusty eyelashes when you wake up

How can you treat blepharitis?

Blepharitis tends to come back, so there are important hygiene steps you can take to reduce your risk.

  • Keep your eyelids clean and clear of crusts. Wet a clean washcloth, lint-free pad, or cotton swab with warm water and use it to gently scrub the base of your eyelashes for about 15 seconds. A warm compress can loosen any crusts. Consider using a mixture of water and baby shampoo to thoroughly clean the area.
  • Use antibiotics or eyedrops if prescribed. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment for your eyes; steroid eyedrops to reduce redness and swelling; antibiotic eyedrops to help the oil glands function better; or “artificial tear” eyedrops to treat dry eyes.
  • Treat other skin conditions. If you have dandruff, use a dandruff shampoo to reduce the flakes that may fall on your eyelids. People with acne rosacea should see a physician to learn how they can treat this disorder.