What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a condition that causes inflammation in the eyelids. Many people have blepharitis. It is also called “granulated eyelids.”

What are the different types of blepharitis?

There are two types of blepharitis:

  • Anterior blepharitis – This type affects the outer front part of the eyelid, where the eyelashes are attached. The two most common causes of anterior blepharitis are bacteria (Staphylococcus) and scalp dandruff.
  • Posterior blepharitis – This type affects the inner eyelid, in the moist part that makes contact with the eye. This part of the eyelid contains oil (meibomian) glands. Problems with these glands cause posterior blepharitis.

    People with certain skin disorders are more likely to get posterior blepharitis. These disorders include acne rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis (scalp dandruff).

What are the symptoms of blepharitis?

Symptoms are similar for both types of blepharitis. They include:

  • A foreign body or burning sensation in the eye
  • Excessive tearing
  • Itching
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Red and swollen eyelids
  • Eye redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Frothy tears
  • Dry eye
  • Crusting of the eyelashes during sleep

What other conditions are associated with blepharitis?

In some cases, blepharitis can cause other conditions, such as:

  • Stye – This is a red, tender bump on the eyelid. It is caused by an infection in the eyelid’s oil glands.
  • Chalazion – This is a firm lump that can happen after a stye. It is caused by inflammation of the eyelid’s oil glands. In most cases, chalazion is painless, but it can be painful and red if there is an infection.
  • Problems with the tear film – The tear film is a layer of oil, water, and mucous that surrounds and protects the eye. Having too much or too little oil secretion causes problems with the tear film, such as dry eye and excessive tearing. Tears help keep the cornea healthy, so tear film problems can put a person at greater risk of corneal infection.

How is blepharitis treated?

Treatment is similar for both types of blepharitis. It involves keeping the lids clean and free of crusts. This can be done by first applying warm compresses to the eyelid to loosen the crusts, and then lightly scrubbing it with a cotton swab and a mixture of water and baby shampoo. People with posterior blepharitis should also massage their eyelids to clear the oil built up in the glands.

For people with severe cases of blepharitis, an eye doctor might also prescribe antibiotic medications or steroid eyedrops. For people who also have scalp dandruff, the doctor might recommend a dandruff shampoo to help with treatment. People who also have acne rosacea should have that condition treated as well.

Controlling blepharitis can be difficult, because it tends to come back over and over. Most people with the condition must maintain an eyelid hygiene routine for the rest of their lives.