What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a chronic condition caused by inflammation of the eyelids. This can make the eyelids red, swollen, irritated and itchy, and leave dandruff-like flakes on the eyelashes. Blepharitis typically occurs when the oil glands of the eyelids (Meibomian glands) become clogged.

While blepharitis can cause discomfort, it is not contagious and typically causes no permanent damage to eyesight. Despite this, people with blepharitis may experience several other complications, such as dry eye, styes, chalazia and chronic conjunctivitis.

Blepharitis symptoms

Blepharitis typically has noticeable symptoms that irritate the eyes and interfere with vision. If you have blepharitis, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Burning, stinging eyes or a sensation of having something foreign in the eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Red, swollen eyelids
  • Crusting of the eyelids or eyelashes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Need to blink frequently

Causes of blepharitis

Blepharitis typically occurs due to having a sensitivity to bacteria on the eyelids at the base of the eyelashes. The nearby Meibomian oil glands can then sometimes become clogged or irritated. This often causes the eyelids to become inflamed, leading to blepharitis.

Other factors that may cause or contribute to blepharitis include:

  • Hormones
  • Dietary factors
  • Rosacea
  • Eye make-up

Blepharitis prevention

If you experience blepharitis, it is important to keep your eyelids clean. Basic eyelid cleaning should be performed regularly.  Additionally, adequate removal of eye makeup at the end of the day is important – in some cases, eye makeup should be avoided until the inflammation is under control.

Diagnosis of blepharitis

Diagnosing blepharitis is possible during a routine comprehensive eye examination.  Additional tests, such as the use of special eye drops to stain your tears, may be performed to determine whether there is any associated secondary dry eye present.

Blepharitis treatment

In many cases, at-home measures, such as warm compresses and eyelid cleaning may be enough to manage blepharitis. Use of lubricating eyedrops can provide comfort and relief from mild symptoms.

However, depending on the severity of inflammation, your ophthalmologist may recommend prescription treatments.

Steroid eye drops can help control the redness, swelling and irritation that blepharitis causes. In other cases, you may also be prescribed antibiotics to help treat the inflammation.  This may be particularly required if your blepharitis results from an underlying condition such as rosacea.  Your ophthalmologist will help determine which treatment is most appropriate for you.

Get in touch to see Dr Juanita Pappalardo

Dr Pappalardo is a Specialist Ophthalmologist with broad experience in treating a range of common eye diseases, such as blepharitis. If you believe that you have blepharitis, get in touch to plan your visit with Dr Pappalardo.

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