What is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a term that literally means “inflamed eyelids”. It’s a very common condition often referred to as “granulated eyelids” because of the crusts that form along the lid margin, in the area where eyelashes grow. Blepharitis is a chronic condition, which means it can’t be cured, but the symptoms it causes can easily be controlled.

What Causes Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is caused by inflammation and bacterial growth in the oil glands located along the lid margin, known as meibomian glands. It’s often seen in people who have seborrheic dermatitis, or who have dandruff in the scalp and eyebrows. Another skin condition often associated with blepharitis is Rosacea.

What Are The Symptoms of Blepharitis?

Redness and crusting of the lid margins, as well as foamy tears, are common symptoms in people with blepharitis, although some individuals who have it may not be aware of any symptoms. Most people with blepharitis experience symptoms that can include itching, red eyes, burning, tearing, a gritty foreign body sensation, light sensitivity, eyelashes that fall out or become misdirected, thickened lid margins, and frequent styes.

How Is Blepharitis Treated?

Your eye doctor may suggest a number of different treatments, often referred to as “lid hygiene”, as well as medications.

  • Hot Compresses: Hold a washcloth that has been wrung out in hot water over the eyes for 5 minutes. Reheat the washcloth as it cools. Milwaukee Eye Care also has Bruder Masks available for purchase at the front desk of all four locations. The compress helps stabilize the tear film, improves oil gland function and slows tear evaporation. Properly hydrated and lubricated eyes can expel bacteria and debris more efficiently so your eyes will feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
  • Lid Scrubs: Do this after a hot compress. Wrap the moist washcloth over your fingertip and scrub back and forth along the lid margin, at the base of the eyelashes, 10 to 20 times, along both the upper and lower eyelid. Some doctors recommend using only hot water, while others find a very diluted solution of baby shampoo (a few drops in a small glass of water) helpful. Commercially available eyelid soaps and per-treated lid scrubbing pads, and sprays can also be purchased.
  • Eye Drops: After a hot compress and cleaning the lid margins, prescription eye drops may be recommended. Your eye doctor may advise applying the drop to your eyelid margin, rather than dropping it into your eye.
  • Ointment: After a hot compress and cleaning the lid margins, prescription eye ointment may be recommended. This is easily applied by squeezing a ¼ inch strip onto your fingertip, then smearing it into the eyelashes while your eye is closed. Blurred vision may result when ointment gets into the eye, so bedtime is the best time to use ointments.
  • Oral Antibiotics: These may be prescribed for more severe cases of blepharitis.

For people with dandruff-related blepharitis, anti-seborrhea shampoo for the scalp may be recommended. This shampoo may also be used to treat flaky crusty eyebrows but should not be used in the eye area.

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