Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids, occurring particularly at the lid margins.  It is a common disorder and may be associated with a low-grade bacterial infection or a generalized skin condition.

Blepharitis occurs in two forms: anterior blepharitis and posterior blepharitis.

Anterior blepharitis affects the front of the eyelids, usually near the eyelashes.  The two most common causes of anterior blepharitis are bacteria and a skin disorder called seborrheic dermatitis, which causes itchy, flaky red skin.

Posterior blepharitis affects the part of the eyelid that comes in contact with the eye and is usually caused by problems with the oil glands in the lid margin.  Posterior blepharitis is more common than anterior blepharitis and often affects people with a rosacea.

Blepharitis signs and symptoms

Regardless of which type of blepharitis you have, you will probably have such symptoms as eye irritation, burning, tearing, foreign body sensation, crusty debris, dryness and red eyelid margins.

It is important to see an eye doctor and get treatment.  If your blepharitis is bacterial, possible long-term effects are thickened lid margins, dilated and visible capillaries, misdirected eyelashes, loss of eyelashes and a loss of the normal position of the eyelid margin against the eye.  Blepharitis can also lead to styes and infections or erosions of the cornea.

Blepharitis treatments

Blepharitis can be difficult to manage because it tends to recur.  Treatment depends on the type of blepharitis you have and the severity of the condition.  Treatment options include the following:

  • Applying warm compresses to the eyelids
  • Cleaning your eyelids frequently
  • artificial tears
  • Antibiotic drops, pills, or ointments
  • Steroid drops or ointments
  • Immunomodulator eyedrops
  • Nutrition supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids
  • Massaging the lids to help express oil from the meibomian glands

Because blepharitis tends to be chronic, prolonged therapy may be required to control the condition.  If you normally wear contact lenses, you may need to discontinue wearing them during the treatment period and even beyond.  Sometimes, changing from soft contact lenses to rigid gas permeable contact lenses can help – since rigid lenses are less likely to accumulate lens deposits.  In other cases, contact lens discomfort caused by blepharitis can be relieved by replacing soft contact lenses more frequently or changing to one-day disposable lenses.