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What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a common condition where the edges of the eyelids become swollen and red.

Symptoms of the condition include:

  • Sore, itchy and red eyelids which stick together
  • Crusty or greasy eyelashes
  • A burning or gritty feeling in your eyes
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Swelling at the edges of your eyelids
  • Finding contact lenses uncomfortable to wear
  • Abnormal eyelash growth or in severe cases a loss of eyelashes
  • Though both eyes tend to be affected, one eye can be worse than the other. The symptoms are generally worse in the morning.

When to seek professional advice

You should visit one of our Optical Express optometrists if you have persistent symptoms of blepharitis that aren't being relieved by routine eyelid hygiene measures. We can examine you to check whether the problem is because of an underlying condition.

In severe cases, you should visit your GP or report to an A&E ward if that’s not possible.

Treatment

Blepharitis is usually a long-term condition. In many cases, people will experience repeated flare-ups of the condition.

Whilst usually incurable, a daily eyelid-cleaning routine can help control the symptoms and prevent permanent scarring of the edges of the eyelids.

How to clean your eyelids:

  • Use a warm compress – to make the oil produced by the glands around your eyes runnier
  • Gently massage your eyelids – to push the oils out of the glands
  • Clean your eyelids – to wipe away excess oil and remove any crust, bacteria, dust or grime which might have built up.

Severe cases may require medication which are either applied directly to the eyelid or taken as a tablet.

Types of blepharitis

  • Anterior blepharitis – where the inflammation affects the skin around the base of your eyelashes
  • Posterior blepharitis – where the inflammation affects your Meibomian glands, found along the edges of the eyelid  behind the base of the eyelashes
  • Mixed blepharitis – a combination of both anterior and posterior blepharitis

Causes of blepharitis

Anterior blepharitis can be caused by either:

  • A reaction to Staphylococcus bacteria – these usually live harmlessly on the skin of many people, but for unknown reasons, they can cause the eyelids to become inflamed
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis– a skin condition that causes the skin to become oily or flaky and sometimes irritate the eyelids, causing the Meibomian glands to block

Posterior blepharitis is caused by a problem with the Meibomian glands, where the glands get blocked by debris, skin flakes or inflammation.

Mixed blepharitis, which is the most common, is caused by a combination of both anterior and posterior blepharitis.

Blepharitis is not a contagious condition.

Complications

Blepharitis isn't usually serious, although it can lead to further problems, such as dry eye syndrome, where the eyes don't produce enough tears or dry out too quickly. This can cause your eyes to feel dry, gritty and sore.

Sight-threatening problems are rare, particularly if any complications that develop are identified and treated quickly. To make sure your eyes are in the best condition book an eye test with one of our expert Optical Express optometrists.

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