Blepharitis is a noncontagious inflammation of the eyelids that affects eyelid margins–the area where the lashes grow. This common condition may cause redness, discomfort, itchiness and a stinging or burning sensation. Often associated with bacterial infections and certain skin disorders, blepharitis tends to recur, making it difficult to treat and manage.
Symptoms and Complications Associated with Blepharitis
General symptoms. While it blepharitis does not pose a serious threat to vision, it can be an uncomfortable and unsightly condition. Some symptoms include:
- Irritated, red, itchy and swollen eyelids
- Watery eyes and frequent blinking
- Eyelids that are coated with an oily substance and appear greasy
- Dandruff-like scales or skin flakes around the eyes
- Sticky eyelids
- Crustiness along the lashes, particularly after sleeping
- Increased sensitivity to light
Complications. If you have blepharitis, you may also experience complications and secondary infections:
- Abnormal growth or loss of eyelashes. Blepharitis can cause the eyelashes to grow inward, toward the eye (misdirected eyelashes). As a result, the lashes rub against the surface of the eye, causing further irritation.
- Skin problems and scarring. Chronic blepharitis can lead to scarring of the hair follicles, eyelid edges and the eyelid.
- Excessive tearing and dry eyes. The condition can cause irregularities in the tear film, the solution that forms tears. Factors such as abnormal or diminished oil secretions and excess skin debris can affect the compositional balance of the tear film, which then interferes with healthy and proper lubrication of the eyelids. If the eyes do not have sufficient lubrication, the risk of corneal infection becomes greater. In addition, wearing contact lenses may become difficult.
- Styes and Chalazia. The blockage of oil ducts can result in a bacterial infection and the formation of a stye or a chalazion. A stye is a tender red bump or abscess that usually develops near the base of the eyelashes. Unlike a stye, a chalazion usually forms in the eyelid.
- Recurrent conjunctivitis (pink eye). Blepharitis can make you more susceptible to chronic pink eye, a swelling of the conjunctiva, the thin, transparent moist membrane that lines the surface of the eye and inner surface of the eyelid.
- Damage to the cornea. Constant irritation, misdirected eyelashes, and insufficient lubrication can cause a lesion to form on the cornea and increase the chances of infection.
Forms of Blepharitis
Blepharitis has two basic types, based on the location of the eyelid where the problem occurs: anterior blepharitis and posterior blepharitis. Anterior blepharitis involves the outer edge of the eyelid where the eyelashes are located. Posterior blepharitis, the more common of the two forms, involves the inner eyelid and is related to abnormal secretions from the oil glands (termed the meibomian glands).
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause of blepharitis is not always known. However, the condition if often associated with certain risk factors such as bacterial infections and eyelash mites or lice. Individuals who have the following skin conditions and sensitivities may be more prone to blepharitis:
- Oily skin or problems with oil glands in the eyelids (meibomian glands)
- Dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp and eyebrows)
- Acne rosacea, which leads to inflamed skin
- Allergies, including allergic reactions to eye medications and products
- Dry eyes
In general, different factors are associated with the two forms of blepharitis. Anterior blepharitis is most commonly related to the presence of bacteria (Staphylococcus) and scalp dandruff. Posterior blepharitis is typically connected to acne rosacea and dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis).
Diagnosis of Blepharitis at Beach Eye Medical Group in Huntington Beach, Orange County
If you are suffering from any type of eye irritation, it is important to have the problem properly diagnosed–particularly in the case of blepharitis. At Beach Eye Medical Group in Huntington Beach, Orange County our eye doctors will carefully examine your eyelids and eyes under magnification. In certain cases, a Beach Eye doctor will gently swab your eye to collect a sample of the oil coating or crust. This sample will be analyzed to determine if there is bacteria, fungi or allergens present.
Unfortunately, blepharitis is often a chronic condition; however, it can be managed with daily attention and therapeutics. Self-care and good hygiene practices may be sufficient to control blepharitis flare-ups. Come common at-home remedies include:
- Applying warm compresses to loosen scales and debris around your eyelashes.
- Gently scrubbing the eyelids with a lint-free cloth to clean the edges of your eyelids.
- Cleansing the eyelids with tea tree oil or shampoo to help control of dandruff and mites.
- Discontinuing the use of eye makeup.
Depending on the severity of your blepharitis or level of infection, your Beach Eye doctor may prescribe medications to address the issue and alleviate symptoms. Medications can include:
- Topical or oral antibiotics to fight a bacterial infection
- Steroid eyedrops or ointments to control inflammation
- Topical cyclosporine to treat dry eyes associated with blepharitis
In some instances, a patient may be advised to seek treatment for an underlying condition–such as rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis– that is related to blepharitis.
If you have blepharitis symptoms and signs that are ongoing, contact Beach Eye Medical Group to make an appointment for a comprehensive examination.