What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is an irritation of the eyelids. It is a common eye condition that is usually caused by bacteria or by skin conditions such as dandruff and acne rosacea. It is sometimes caused by allergies.

Blepharitis is a chronic (long-lasting) condition that comes and goes over time. Although blepharitis does not result in blindness, it can cause red, irritated eyes.

What are the symptoms of blepharitis?

The symptoms of blepharitis include reddened, swollen, itchy eyelids and scaly eyelashes. As the scales become coarser, the surface of the eyelid becomes irritated and forms crusts, which may cause the lids to stick together when you wake up in the morning. If this crust falls into your eye, you may feel like you have “something in your eye,” or your eye may feel gritty.

How is blepharitis treated?

Blepharitis cannot be cured; however, it can be treated and controlled through proper eyelid hygiene. Left untreated, blepharitis can develop into a more serious condition such as scarring or injury to the eye's tissue.

If you have blepharitis, take the steps listed below to help treat and cleanse your eye:

  • Take a clean washcloth and wet it in very warm water. Wring the washcloth and place it over the closed eyelids for five minutes. Re-wet as necessary to maintain the desired temperature. This will help to soften crusts and loosen oily debris.
  • Place the warm, wet washcloth over the index finger and apply a diluted solution of 50% baby shampoo or mild soap.
  • Cleanse one eye at a time, closing the eye you are cleansing, and rubbing the washcloth or your finger over the eyelashes and lid margins several times using horizontal strokes.
  • Rinse thoroughly with a clean, warm, wet washcloth. Pat dry.
  • If your ophthalmologist determines that your blepharitis is caused by bacteria, he or she may also prescribe a topical antibiotic or topical antibiotic/corticosteroid combination to be applied to the base of the eyelashes for one or two weeks.

How do I prevent blepharitis?

There are many everyday steps that you can take to prevent blepharitis. Take these steps:

  • Keep your hands and face clean
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes with dirty fingers, a soiled handkerchief, etc
  • Remove all eye makeup before bedtime
  • Wipe any excess tears or eyedrops from your eyelashes

If you are in the early stages of treating blepharitis, avoid the use of eye makeup to prevent further irritation. Once you begin using makeup again, replace any liquid products because your old products may be contaminated.


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