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Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid that can affect individuals of all ages. It usually affects the lower part of the lid and eyelashes. While it can be uncomfortable, blepharitis doesn't typically affect vision or damage the eye.
Symptoms of blepharitis
Symptoms of blepharitis include:
Red, watery eyes
Swollen, itchy eyelids
Burning sensation in the eye
Gritty feeling in the eye when blinking
Flaky skin around the eyes
Crusting of the eyelashes
Eyelashes that are missing or growing in odd directions
Sensitivity to light
Causes of blepharitis
Blepharitis occurs when the oil glands near the eyelashes malfunction. This may be the result of an allergic reaction to eye makeup or contact lens solution. Blepharitis may also be caused by a bacterial infection. Bacterial infections are particularly common in those who touch their eyes when their hands are dirty and may be linked to poor personal hygiene. In some cases, blepharitis is associated with underlying skin conditions such as rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis.
Treatment for blepharitis
The first step to treating blepharitis is to clean the affected area. This can be done by applying a warm, wet washcloth to the affected eye for 5 minutes. Baby shampoo can then be used to clean the outer eyelid area while lubricating eye drops can help to relieve any burning sensation or dryness within the eye. It is also important to avoid anything that can cause further eye irritation such as applying makeup or wearing contact lenses.
In some cases, cleaning the area and avoiding irritants may be all that is needed to reduce the symptoms associated with blepharitis. However, if blepharitis is the result of a bacterial infection, antibiotic eye drops may be needed to treat the infection. Similarly, if blepharitis developed as the result of rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis, treating the underlying condition is necessary to controlling the symptoms. In more severe cases, steroid drops may also be administered to reduce inflammation.
Blepharitis is often a chronic condition, so it is important to keep the eyelid and surrounding area clean to avoid a recurrence. If left untreated, blepharitis can progress into a more serious condition called ulcerative blepharitis, which involves loss of eyelashes, eyelid scarring, and corneal inflammation.
To learn more about blepharitis and steps you can take to prevent or treat the condition, contact your eye care professional.