Blepharitis is a non-contagious inflammation of your eyelids. It can affect people of all ages. Blepharitis usually impacts both eyes at the same time and occurs at the eyelash line. While this medical condition is often treatable, in one of its forms, it’s considered chronic and can be difficult to treat.
People with blepharitis usually are found to have other skin irritations, such as scalp dandruff and acne rosacea, which can be treated at the same time by a skin specialist. There is a rather large variety of symptoms for blepharitis — as well as the many diseases that can cause it. The good news is blepharitis won’t cause any kind of eye damage, although it can be uncomfortable and unsightly when it’s active.
How to Tell If You Have Blepharitis
The list of symptoms is long, so if you’re experiencing two or more of these symptoms and good hygiene doesn’t make them go away after a few days, you may have blepharitis. Make an appointment to see your doctor for:
- Watery eyes
- Red eyes
- A feeling of grittiness, burning or stinging
- Greasy-looking eyelids
- Itchy eyelids
- Swollen eyelids
- Skin that flakes around your eyes
- Eyelashes that are crusted, especially when you wake up in the morning
- Eyelids that stick together
- More blinking than usual
- Eyes that are sensitive to light
- Abnormal growth with your eyelashes, such as eyelashes pointing in the wrong direction
- Loss of eyelashes
- Tears that appear frothy
- Blurred vision
Diagnosing an Eyelid Infection
Your eye doctor is going to want to conduct a comprehensive vision test to determine the main cause of your blepharitis. This involves examining the skin texture of your eyelids and your eyelashes’ appearance. Using magnification and light, your doctor checks the base of your eyelashes as well as the glandular openings. Finally, an evaluation of the quantity and quality of your tears is performed.
There are two main forms of blepharitis: anterior and posterior. Most patients experience some level of both forms at the same time. Each form has several different types and symptoms:
- Anterior Blepharitis arises most commonly from bacteria, such as staph, or from dandruff on your scalp or eyebrows. It’s concentrated where your eyelashes are attached to your lids. There are several kinds of anterior blepharitis:
- Staphylococcal blepharitis is a bacterial infection that can become the most severe type of blepharitis. This form of blepharitis can cause long-term effects and damage to your lid, lashes and eyes if left untreated. It’s common for patients to experience pink eye concurrently with this bacteria-caused condition. You may also experience lashes that stick slightly, lid margins that are thickened, and lashes that fall out or stick out at odd angles.
- Seborrheic blepharitis is caused by seborrheic dermatitis, a skin condition that exists even on the eyelids. It results in flaky, scaly skin. When you have seborrheic blepharitis, the base of your eyelids exhibit scales or flakes.
- Demodex blepharitis involves microscopic mites, whose waste can clog eyelash follicles, causing blepharitis. These mites are also associated with skin conditions like rosacea. While everyone has microscopic mites on their skin, researchers have put forth the idea that you could become allergic to the mites or their waste, thereby causing blepharitis.
- Ulcerative blepharitis is another bacterial infection-based blepharitis. This one sits in the base of your eyelashes and can affect your lash follicles and meibomian glands as well. This blepharitis can also be from a virus, such as herpes simplex. Another name for this diagnosis is acute blepharitis or acute ulcerative blepharitis. Symptoms from ulcerative blepharitis tend to be a bit more uncomfortable and include hard crusts around your eyelashes that, when removed, leave behind small sores that may ooze and bleed. Eyelash loss and chronic tearing often occur as well. In more serious cases of ulcerative blepharitis, your cornea can become inflamed.
- Posterior blepharitis is another form of blepharitis that usually comes about from some sort of dysfunction or clogging of your meibomian glands, where oils are secreted for eye lubrication and tear retention. Posterior blepharitis is also called meibomian blepharitis, meibomitis or meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). This is the type of blepharitis that can cause foamy-looking tears and often is the most challenging blepharitis to manage. The lining of your eyelids look red and swollen with this condition. Your tears may not able to perform their proper lubricating job, leading to dry or irritated eyes. Because of this lack of lubrication and glandular dysfunction, meibomian blepharitis is sometimes diagnosed as a type of dry eye.
Complications from Blepharitis
If left untreated, blepharitis can result in a number of uncomfortable complications, including:
- Stye, which is a painful red bump on your eyelid due to an infected oil gland
- Chalazion that can occur after a stye develops — it’s a painless firm lump unless it gets infected, when it turns red and painful
- Tear film problems, in which you develop an inconsistent amount of eye oil secretions, leading to either too many tears being produced or not enough resulting in dry eye — either one of which can lead to corneal infections because the right amount of tear film to keep the cornea healthy isn’t present.
Treatment for blepharitis, regardless of the type, is usually similar and includes:
- Frequently washing your scalp and face
- Placing warm compresses on your eyes, several times daily, to relieve the discomfort of dry eyelids
- Gently scrubbing your lashes with a washcloth — a clean one for each eye — using just water and baby shampoo
- Massaging eyelids to release clogged oil glands
- Using artificial tears or lubricating ointments
- Stopping your use of eye make-up and contact lenses until the episode is over
- Taking antibiotics or other medications for bacterial infections
The main thing to remember with blepharitis is that it typically stems from either an infection, which can be treated, or from a skin condition, which requires a lifelong eye hygiene regimen for comfort. While that can sound intimidating, keep in mind that there is no medication required, and all the items needed to keep your eyes clear and symptom-free are usually already in your home or available over the counter. More than likely, if your blepharitis is recurrent, you need to maintain an eye hygiene regimen. To be comfortable and keep your symptoms down as much as possible, you need to do this regimen for the rest of your life.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult eye doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified eye doctor can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have any questions about Blepharitis (itchy, dry eyelids)? Would like to schedule an appointment with a best in class ophthalmologist in nyc or Optometrist, Dr. Saba khodadadian of Manhattan Eye Specialists, please contact our office for consultation with New York City Eye doctor.
Dr. Saba Khodadadian, Optometrist (NYC Eye Doctor)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 533-4821