Blepharitis is a common inflammatory condition that affects the eyelids. It usually causes burning, itching and irritation of the lids. In severe cases, it may also cause styes, irritation and inflammation of the cornea (keratitis) and conjunctiva (conjunctivitis). Some patients have no symptoms at all.
Blepharitis is usually a chronic problem that can be controlled with extra attention to lid hygiene. However, it is sometimes caused by an infection and may require medication.
Signs and Symptoms
- Sandy, itchy eyes
- Red and/or swollen eyelids
- Crusty, flaky skin on the eyelids
Detection and Diagnosis
Blepharitis is detected during a routine examination of the eyelids and lashes using a slit lamp microscope.
The key to controlling blepharitis is to keep the eyelids and eyelashes clean. Begin by soaking a clean washcloth in hot tap water. Hold the washcloth to your cheek to test for temperature before placing it on the eyes. Place the compress on closed eyelids for five minutes, and then repeat. Next, gently scrub the eyelids with a washcloth or cotton swab soaked in a mixture of equal parts of baby shampoo and water. Afterward, rinse the lids thoroughly with warm water.
This treatment should be repeated two to three times daily for two weeks, and then reduced to once daily. Consult your eye care practitioner regarding the correct medical treatment. In some cases, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drops or ointments are necessary for flare-ups or more severe cases.
Illustrations by Mark Erickson
With acknowledgement to St. Lukes Eye Hospital.