Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelid. It is a very common eye disease that affects the edge of the eyelids and eyelash hair follicles.
There are 3 main types of blepharitis:
- Seborrheic blepharitis—Skin cells shed more rapidly than normal due to a sebaceous gland that is not functioning properly. The sebaceous gland secretes oil to the skin. The presence of excess oil and skin cells help bacteria grow.
- Infectious blepharitis—Bacteria, in particular, staphylococcus, cause an infection in the glands along the eyelid.
- Contact dermatitis blepharitis—Something coming in contact with the eyelid leads to local inflammation. For example, mascara may produce such an allergic reaction.
Factors that may increase your chance of blepharitis include:
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Acne rosacea
- Contact allergies
- Chemical irritants
- Poor hygiene
- Cosmetic makeup
- Advanced age
Symptoms depend on the cause of the blepharitis. They are usually worse in the morning and involve both eyes.
Blepharitis may cause:
- Redness, flaky skin, and oily secretions along the edge of the eyelid
- Crusty material clinging to the eyelashes
- Eyelids “glued together” in the morning
- Dry scales or dandruff-type material on the scalp and eyebrows
- Itching or burning sensation
- Light sensitivity
- Sensation of a foreign object in the eye
- Ulcers or sores at the base of the eyelashes (in severe cases)
- Scant, broken eyelashes
- Nonpainful bumps in the eyelid— chalazion, which may become infected (stye)
- Irritation or infection of issue that covers the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelid— conjunctivitis (pink eye)
Your eye doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. An examination of your eyes will be done. Initially you may not have any special tests. If the inflammation looks unusual for blepharitis or fails to respond to treatment, the doctor may do a culture by passing a swab across the edge of the lid. Your doctor may also decide to perform a biopsy by removing a tiny piece of the eyelid margin for microscopic examination to be certain that there is no sign of cancer. Rarely, some cancers can mimic chronic blepharitis.
Blepharitis is a chronic condition that often requires long-term management. Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. Your doctor may advise you not to wear contact lenses until the blepharitis has resolved.
In mild cases, your doctor may advise you to place a warm washcloth on your eye to help loosen crust. You may also have to wash your eyelids with an eyelid cleanser or diluted baby shampoo.
To help reduce your chance of blepharitis:
- Always wash your hands before touching your eyelids
- Do not share eye makeup
- Wash your hair and face daily
Eye Smart—American Ophthalmology
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Blepharitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 3, 2013. Accessed June 30, 2013.
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Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.