Blepharitis is an eye disorder characterized by inflamed, often swollen eyelids and red, flaky scales that collect on the eyelashes. It is among the most common conditions that affect the eyes. A 2009 survey of ophthalmologists found that somewhere between 37% and 47% of their patients had signs of blepharitis. The disorder affects all races, ethnicities, ages, and genders, but it does become more common with age.
If you think you may suffer from blepharitis, or you’d just like to know more about this widespread eye disorder, read on.
What Causes Blepharitis?
Blepharitis is most often caused by bacteria collected at the base of the eyelashes, leading to an infection. In some other less common instances, mites or allergies can be the root of the issue. In certain people, oil created by the glands in their eyelids also makes them susceptible to developing a blepharitis infection.
Symptoms of Blepharitis
Common symptoms of blepharitis include:
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Red and swollen eyelids
- Gritty, stinging, or burning sensation in the eyes
- Excessive tearing
- Dry or red eyes
- Eyelids that appear greasy
- Crusting of the eyelids
- Flaking of skin around the eyes
When the infection is more severe, it can lead to other symptoms such as blurred vision, missing eyelashes, and inflammation in inner areas of the eye, such as the cornea.
Symptoms of blepharitis are often worse in the morning than they are at night. Infection-causing bacteria can be spread from one eye to the other by excessive rubbing of the infected eye.
If you are suffering from any symptoms of blepharitis, it’s suggested that you clean the affected area and continue to keep your eyelids, skin, and hair clean. If symptoms still do not improve, you should see a doctor.
Although symptoms of blepharitis are often visible, your doctor will need to give you an eye examination to make a comprehensive diagnosis. During your eye examination, your doctor will ask about your medical history, do an external assessment of your eye and eyelid, evaluate your eyelashes and gland openings using magnification, and perform an evaluation of the tear production in your affected eye.
Once the examination is complete, your doctor should be able to determine which of the four different forms of blepharitis you have: Seborrheic, staphylococcal, ulcerative, and meibomian. The main difference among each form of blepharitis is the symptoms that they present, and while treatments may vary somewhat, they are, for the most part, relatively similar.
Treating a blepharitis infection is fairly simple. Your doctor will most likely tell you to keep your eyelids as clean as possible and remove all the crust that collects around your eyelashes. You can do this with the help of a warm compress, water, and baby shampoo. It’s essential always to keep your skin and hair clean when trying to treat blepharitis because bacteria from those areas can easily find their way to your eyelids and exacerbate the problem.
Your doctor may also suggest that you do the following:
- Use eye drops or lubricating ointments
- Use baby shampoo for eyelids and anti-dandruff shampoo for the scalp
- Avoid using contact lenses until the infection has healed
- Use eyelid cleansing systems, such as Avenova or Cliradex
- Refrain from using eye makeup until the infection has healed
- Take antibiotics if prescribed
- Do in-office treatments such as Blephadex
As you can see, the primary interest of blepharitis treatment is to keep the infected eyelid clean. Reducing symptoms is relatively easy. However, blepharitis generally does not go away entirely, and the condition is often chronic.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions concerning blepharitis.
What Causes Blepharitis to Flare Up?
Excessive bacteria collected on your eyelashes is what causes blepharitis flare-ups. This can be exacerbated by the clogging of the glands in your eyelids. To avoid these flare-ups, you should keep your hair, skin, and eyelids as clean as possible.
What Can Make Blepharitis Worse?
Aside from poor hygiene, other factors that can worsen blepharitis include lack of sleep, dehydration, contact lenses, and excessive computer use. Some other extraneous factors such as cold, windy weather, and air conditioning can contribute to the issue.
How Long Does Blepharitis Last?
It’s hard to say how long a blepharitis flare-up will last, but regular treatment is often quite effective at alleviating symptoms. The condition, however, is often chronic and prone to return if treatment is not consistent and thorough.