What is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a chronic inflammation of the eyelids, which can cause irritation, itching, crusting of the eyelashes and, occasionally, a red eye. Blepharitis can begin in early childhood or develop in later life. The condition may occur only once but, more often, recurs repeatedly. This chronic form of the condition is often referred to as “granulated eyelids.”

What Are the Symptoms of Blepharitis?

There are two basic types of blepharitis. The more common form is an immune response to an overgrowth of normal skin bacteria. It is characterized by redness of the eyelid margin and crusty scales, or flaking around the eyelashes. Loss of eyelashes and distortion of the margins of the eyelids are also common complications in any form of blepharitis. Seborrheic blepharitis is slightly less common and is characterized by less eyelid redness, but more crust or flakes around the eyelashes.

These crusty discharges are typically “greasy” in nature. Seborrheic blepharitis is also often associated with dandruff of the scalp. Untreated or advanced blepharitis may lead to a more severe complication known as ulcerative blepharitis. Erosion or even ulceration of the eyelid or cornea may occur. This condition can cause a great deal of discomfort and requires immediate and aggressive treatment.

What Is the Treatment?

Strict lid hygiene is very important when it comes to the treatment of blepharitis. The following regimen may be useful:

  • Use eye scrub pads as directed to scrub eyelid margins upon awakening. Alternatively, a Q-tip soaked in a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 baby shampoo can be rubbed for about one minute across the eyelid margins (where the eyelashes join the skin) of the upper and lower eyelids.
  • If needed, a prescribed ointment is applied in a thin film to the eyelid margins at bedtime.
  • Hot compresses are used three to four times a day for 15 minutes each time.

Treatments used for oily scalps and anti-dandruff shampoos may also be helpful in treating seborrheic cases. Once the initial phase is controlled, lid hygiene, as described above, and the limited use of antibiotic ointments may be sufficient to control blepharitis. In more severe cases, various antibiotics, and even steroid preparations, may be necessary to eliminate the condition.

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