What Is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is the persistent inflammation of the eyelids. The membrane covering the eyelid and eyeball (conjunctiva) can also become inflamed. Blepharitis is a common condition and often occurs in otherwise healthy people. The condition rarely threatens the eye itself or causes permanent loss of vision.

Cause of Blepharitis

The exact cause of blepharitis is not known. However, it appears to be caused by an abnormality in the oil producing glands on the eyelids. These oil-producing glands are known as meibomian glands - hence another name for this condition is meibomitis.

Abnormal bacteria in and around these glands may contribute to the condition.

Blepharitis seems to be more common in people who have oily skin, dandruff, and dry eyes and is extremely common in people with rosacea.

Symptoms of Blepharitis

The inflammation of the eyelids can cause the following persistent symptoms:

  • Irritation and itching
  • Red eye
  • Dandruff-like scales and particles along the eyelids and lashes
  • Swelling and tenderness of the eyelids

Treatment at Penn

Cleansing Routine

Once your eye doctor has diagnosed blepharitis, the most important treatment to control it is a daily cleansing routine for the eyelids. Cleansing routines should be performed 1-2 times a day and require the use of warm compresses to soften crusts and loosen debris, or use of a mild soap (such as mild baby shampoo or prepared eye cleansing solution) to thoroughly clean the eyelids. The eyelids are then thoroughly rinsed and patted dry.

Use of Artificial Tears

Using artificial tears can also be helpful. The artificial tears not only soothe the eye but can dilute or wash away the toxic (and irritative) byproducts of the bacteria.

Use of Medications

The ophthalmologist may prescribe medications to control associated bacterial infections, or to relieve redness, swelling, or irritation. Cleansing routines must still be used even if medication has been prescribed.

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