Blepharitis

Overview

Blepharitis is a common inflammatory condition that affects the eyelid. It usually causes burning, itching and irritation of the lids. In severe cases, it may also cause styes, irritation and inflammation of the cornea (keratitis) and conjunctiva (conjunctivitis). Some patients have no symptoms at all.

Blepharitis is usually a chronic problem that can often be controlled with extra attention to lid hygiene.  In many cases, it is associated with a skin condition called rosacea and may benefit from topical or oral medication.  However, it is sometimes caused by an infection and may require antibiotics to control.

 

Signs and Symptoms

  • Sandy, itchy, burning eyes
  • Red and/or swollen eyelids
  • Crusty, flaky skin on the eyelids
  • Dandruff

 

Detection and Diagnosis

Blepharitis is detected during a routine examination of the eyelids and lashes using a slit lamp microscope.

 

Treatment

The key to controlling blepharitis is to keep the eyelids and eyelashes clean. Begin by soaking a clean washcloth in hot tap water. (You may also warm the washcloth by dampening it first and placing it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. Use caution, all microwaves heat at different intensities. Hold the washcloth to your cheek to test for temperature before placing it on the eyes.) Place the compress on closed eyelids for five minutes, and then repeat. Next, gently scrub the eyelids with a washcloth or cotton swab soaked in a mixture of equal parts of baby shampoo and water. Alternatively, there are many over the counter lid scrub preparations available to cleanse the lids,  Afterward, rinse the lids thoroughly with warm water.

This treatment should be repeated two to three times daily for two weeks, and then reduced to once daily. Like dandruff, there is no cure for blepharitis; but it can be controlled. In some cases, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drops or ointments are necessary for flare-ups or more severe cases.