What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a chronic condition that is characterised by inflammation of the eyelids, leading to discomfort and unattractive eyes. It is a very common eye problem and is not limited to any particular age group. Blepharitis is not contagious and does not affect the vision of the affected person.

Symptoms of blepharitis

The common symptoms of blepharitis are red, watery eyes, burning or itching sensation, and red, swollen and greasy eyelids. Other symptoms include the dandruff-like flakes around the eyes, and crusty eyelids with sticking of eyelids on awakening. Eyes may also be sensitive to light and patients may blink frequently.

Causes of blepharitis

The exact cause for blepharitis is not known, but there are several factors that may lead to its development. Such common factors include:

  • Non-functional oil glands of the eyelids Bacterial infection
  • Dandruff on the scalp and eyebrows (seborrheic dermatitis)
  • Allergic reactions to contact lens solution, eye medications, or eye makeup
  • Skin condition such as rosacea (facial redness)
  • Mites or lice on eyelashes
  • Certain medications for acne that reduce tear production and increase bacterial growth

Diagnosis of blepharitis

Diagnosis of blepharitis involves the review of medical history and physical examination of the eyes. Physical examination may include complete evaluation of the eyelids and their margins, functioning of oil glands, base of eyelashes, quantity and quality of tear production as well as surface of eyeball. In some cases, your doctor may take a swab of the discharge from your eyelid or skin around your eyes to check for an allergy, or bacterial or fungal infection.

Complications associated with blepharitis

Complications that may be associated with blepharitis are:

  • Loss or abnormal growth of eyelashes
  • Eyelid skin scarring
  • Dry or excessively wet eyes
  • Difficulty in wearing contact lenses
  • Cornea injury
  • Eye conditions such as stye (infection at the base of the eyelashes), chalazion (infection due to blockage of oil glands) and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane of eyes)

Treatment of blepharitis

The treatment of blepharitis includes regular washing and cleaning of the affected area with warm water, along with the use of medicated (antibiotics/steroid) eye drops or ointments. In addition, your doctor may prescribe artificial tears or lubricating eye drops.

Treatment also involves addressing underlying conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, and bacterial infections, with medications or antibiotic therapy.

The best measure to prevent complications and relapse of blepharitis is to maintain good eyelid hygiene and routine cleaning of the eyes.