Blepharitis (pronounced bleh-fuh-rye-tis) is a common, noncontagious type of inflammation of the eyelid, caused by the blockage of small oil glands in the eyelid, often due to bacterial infection, oil buildup, or an allergic reaction. The condition can be classified as anterior, affecting glands on the edge of the eyelid around the lashes, or posterior, affecting glands that lubricate the interior of the eyelid (called meibomian glands). Typically, blepharitis is a long-lasting condition, and symptoms of irritation are often intermittent and persistent. Intermittent treatment is primarily centered on improving eyelid hygiene.
Blepharitis can be associated with a variety of symptoms, including:
- Itching/burning feeling
- Watery eyes
- Skin redness
- Flaking, crusting, scaling, tearing of eyelid margins
- Sensation of having a foreign body beneath eyelid (posterior blepharitis)
- Loss or misdirection of eyelashes
Blepharitis is also frequently associated with other conditions such as dry eyes or bacterial eye infections, as well as some skin conditions like acne rosacea.
Blepharitis can be easily identified through a simple visual exam by your eye care professional. Occasionally, an eyelid swab may be performed to analyze the material for signs of bacterial infection.
There is no commonly accepted “cure” for blepharitis, which is often a persistent and long-lasting condition. However, a variety of treatment options, centered primarily on eyelid hygiene, can help ease the symptoms to a very manageable level.
- A warm compress (a wet washcloth or towel will do) can be applied for several minutes to relieve irritation and loosen the crust/scales on the eyelid.
- Gently washing the eyelid and eyelashes with over-the-counter lid scrubs or baby shampoo will keep the eyes clean.
- Antibiotics may be prescribed if bacterial infection is present.
- In cases of posterior blepharitis, nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to ameliorate functioning in the meibomian glands.