A young man washing his face.

Attack On The Eyelids

Blepharitis affects the eyelids, causing one or both to become swollen and red. The condition often occurs from infection or when the eye’s oil glands become blocked, leading to a backup of fluid. Blepharitis is fairly common, rarely contagious and usually doesn’t cause any lasting damage. Patients can experience blepharitis acutely or as a chronic condition.

Front and back

Two different types of blepharitis can appear in the eye. Although patients usually end up with one form, both forms can be present at the same time.

Anterior blepharitis affects the outside of the eye at the point eyelashes extend from the eyelid. This type of blepharitis is usually caused by bacteria and leads to swelling and darker skin color. Patients can also see what looks like dandruff on the lashes.

Posterior blepharitis appears on the inner portion of the eyelid, where the eyelid touches the eyeball. In this case, oil glands become clogged or produce oil that’s too thick.

What’s the cause?

A number of factors can lead to blepharitis appearing on the eyelid. The most common causes of the condition are bacterial or viral infections, along with acne rosacea, seasonal allergies, and Meibomian gland dysfunction. Additionally, conditions such as dandruff, presence of lice or mites in the eyelashes, oily skin, and dry eyes can also contribute to its onset.

Let the expert weigh in

At present, there’s no cure for blepharitis. If the condition develops, the best course of action is to see an eye doctor for treatment. The physician may recommend some at-home exercises to keep symptoms at bay.

Kick blepharitis to the curb

The most common approach to lessening the effects of blepharitis involves good eyelid hygiene. Patients should use warm moist compresses on the eyelid for several minutes at a time to cleanse the area. Follow this up with a gentle lid scrubbing using a baby shampoo solution with the eyes closed. An ophthalmologist may suggest cold compresses to reduce swelling or avoiding makeup that could irritate the area.

If the condition is caused by an infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antivirals to treat the underlying problem. Creams or eye drops can target other root causes, such as rosacea or dry eye. Steroid eye drops or ointments can reduce discomfort from inflammation.

Don’t let it get complicated

When blepharitis isn’t treated properly, the condition can spill into more severe complications. These advanced issues can lead to lasting damage that’s best avoided. Examples of complications include:

Stye: A stye is a painful infection that develops under the skin near the base of the eyelash.

Chalazion: A chalazion results from a blockage in one of the oil glands. The area becomes red and swollen before becoming a hard lump.

Eyelash issues: Eyelashes may fall out, grow abnormally, or lighten in color.

Corneal ulcer: Repeated eyelid problems can wear down the cornea, leading to a sore.

Pink eye (conjunctivitis): Irritated eyelids can lead to frequent appearances of pink eye.

Tear film issues: Flaky skin or oil gland blockages can affect the tear film that keeps an eye lubricated. Blepharitis can cause either an abundance of tears or dry eye.

Be proactive with your treatment

Blepharitis may seem harmless but often makes for an uncomfortable experience. What’s worse, the condition can morph into more serious eye issues when left unchecked. If symptoms appear, check with a healthcare specialist for the best way to keep blepharitis from becoming a big problem.