What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a common eye condition that causes the edges of the eyelids to become inflamed. It is a chronic, or long-term condition, and it will often recur – even if it has been successfully treated.

What are the symptoms of Blepharitis?

If you are suffering from blepharitis, you may notice:

  • itchy, sore and red eyes
  • eyelids that are stuck together
  • greasy or crusty eyes

Other symptoms may include:

  • burning or gritty sensation in your eyes
  • experiencing a sensitivity to light
  • developing swollen eyelid rims
  • puffy eyes

Symptoms may also be worse in the morning.

There are two main types of blepharitis that you can suffer from. Anterior blepharitis is an inflammation that affects the skin around the base of the eyelashes, whereas posterior blepharitis is an inflammation that affects the glands found along the eyelid behind the base of the eyelashes. There is also a condition known as ‘mixed blepharitis’ – this is a combination of both anterior and posterior blepharitis.

Causes of blepharitis

Anterior blepharitis can be caused by either a reaction to the Staphylococcus bacteria or by seborrhoeic dermatitis. Staphylococcus bacteria lives on the skin of many people and is usually harmless. However for unknown reasons, the bacteria can cause the eyelids to become inflamed. Seborrhoeic dermatitis however is a skin condition that causes the skin to become flaky or oily. This can sometimes irritate the eyelids and cause the Meibomian glands to become blocked.

Posterior blepharitis on the other hand is caused by a problem with the Meibomian glands. The glands get blocked by either skin flakes, debris or inflammatory by-products.

Sometimes blockages in the Meibomian glands are associated with the skin condition, rosacea. If too much oil is being produced on the skin, this may be caused by seborrhoeic dermatitis.

The most common, mixed blepharitis, is caused by a combination of both anterior and posterior blepharitis.

Blepharitis treatment

Blepharitis is a long term condition and most people who suffer from it should expect it to recur, even if treatment is successful. Although there is no cure for blepharitis and it is uncomfortable when it strikes, it won’t usually result in lasting damage to your vision. Keeping your eyes clean will help to keep your symptoms at bay – avoid wearing eye-make up and steer clear of spaces such as smoking shelters.

During early blepharitis, sufferers may experience very few symptoms – if any. However an eye care professional will be able to detect the appearance of blepharitis. You may find that you are given advice and treatments which can help to prevent the development of symptoms in the future.

Most blepharitis is treated with regular lid hygiene, and your eye care practitioner will be able to recommend a product to use and give advice on how and when to do so. If the eyes are also a little uncomfortable, some eye drops may help to alleviate any discomfort. Your eye care practitioner will be able to recommend an appropriate drop.

More severe cases of blepharitis may require a course of oral antibiotics, prescribed by a healthcare professional. Your optometrist or doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic cream to be applied directly to the eye or eyelid area. Contact lens wearers should seek advice from their eye care professional.

If you are unsure or have any concerns about the health of your eyes, always seek advice from your regular optometrist.