Close up of an eye showing a severe case of blepharitis

What is Blepharitis?

Inflammation of the eyelids is referred to as blepharitis.

Blepharitis causes red, itchy and swollen eyelids. The condition usually affects both eyes along the edges of your eyelids.

Blepharitis can be difficult to treat sometimes. However, it does not cause any permanent damage to your eyesight.

What are the Causes of Blepharitis?

The exact cause of blepharitis is not known. In some cases, it can occur when tiny oil glands near the base of the eyelashes become clogged or malfunction, causing irritation and redness.

Some of the other causes include: 

  • Dry eyes
  • Infection
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Rosacea, redness due to blockage of blood vessels on the face
  • Allergic reactions to contact lens solutions, eye medications or eye makeup
  • Eyelash mites or lice

What are the Symptoms of Blepharitis?

Characteristic symptoms of blepharitis include: 

  • Red or watery eyes
  • Burning or stinging sensation in the eyes
  • Greasy or itchy eyelids 
  • Red or swollen eyelids
  • Skin flaking around the eyes
  • Sticking of the eyelid 
  • More frequent blinking
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Blurred vision

How is Blepharitis Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of blepharitis is based on your signs and symptoms and a complete eye examination using a specialised magnifying tool. This eye examination checks for inflammation and the presence of fungi, bacteria, or viruses, which can indicate an infection.

If you have symptoms of an infection, your doctor will perform a swab test of your eyes and collect a sample of any fluid. This sample is then examined under a microscope for fungi, bacteria or evidence of an allergy.

What are the Treatment Options for Blepharitis?

Self-care measures such as using warm compresses and washing your eyes are the initial stages of treatment.

If self-care measures do not work, your doctor might suggest the following treatment options, which include:

  • Medications in the form of eye drops, ointments, creams or tablets for oral consumption. 
  • Medications may include steroids to reduce inflammation, antibiotics to treat infection, and immunosuppressive drugs to treat immune-related disease.

What are the Complications of Blepharitis?

If left untreated, blepharitis could result in:

  • Eyelash loss
  • Dry eyes
  • Chronic pink eye
  • Scarring on the eyelid
  • Sty
  • Infection under your eyelids
  • Corneal injury

An untreated eye infection can cause permanent damage to the eye and loss of vision.

How is Blepharitis Prevented?

You can reduce your risk by the following measures:

  • Wash your face regularly and remove your face and eye makeup before sleeping.
  • Always wash your hands before touching your eye area.
  • See your physician if you experience signs of blepharitis.
  • A prescription shampoo may be recommended for severe dandruff.
Close up of an eye showing a severe case of blepharitis
Bristol, Newport, Cardiff and Swansea eye hospital