Blepharitis Eyelid Inflammation

Irritated eyelids. Image Source

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids. It causes red, irritated eyelids and dandruff like scaly tissue on the eyelashes. It is an extremely common condition that can affect all ages. However, it seems to be more prevalent in children and older adults. Blepharitis is not contagious. There are two forms: anterior blepharitis, which happens when the eyelids become infected, and posterior blepharitis, which happens when glands in the eyelids become blocked and inflamed.

Causes of Blepharitis

  • Anterior blepharitis is commonly caused by staphylococcal bacteria. Although less common, it may also be the result of allergies or an infestation of Demodex mites within the eyelashes. Staph bacteria and Demodex mites are actually quite commonly found on our skin. However, when the levels grow to abnormal, higher levels, it becomes a medical problem.
  • Posterior blepharitis is caused by inflammation of the eyelid glands and sometimes an infection of those glands that produce oil.  Posterior blepharitis is often referred to as meibomian gland dysfunction. Sometimes it caused by other problems such as acne rosacea. Posterior blepharitis occurs when the meibomian glands do not produce the normal amount of oil or too much oil. This oil is an important component to the tears. Its job is to prevent tear film evaporation. When it is not present in the right amounts, the eye become dry and irritated.

    Diagnose of Blepharitis

    First, it is important to have a comprehensive eye examination. Your eye doctor will focus on the external examination of your eye and inspect your eyelid structure, skin quality and the condition of your eyelashes. He or she will then look at your eyes under a special biomicroscope called a slit lamp.

    Your eyelid margin, the base of the eyelashes and the meibomian glands will be examined. Next, your eye doctor will look at the quality and quantity of your tears. Your TBUT (tear film break up time) will be measured. If your tears break apart in a short amount of time, usually less than 10 seconds, you may have evaporative dry eye, which is a sign of blepharitis. 

    Blepharitis Treatment

    Blepharitis is treated with a multi-step approach depending on the severity. It may or may not include some of the items below.

    • Warm compresses with massage - Warm compresses are the main stay of blepharitis treatment. A very warm wash clothe heated with warm water held on the eyelids several times per day does wonders for blepharitis. It sounds simple, but it works. The warmth does to things. It brings blood flow to the area, which helps to fight of any infection. It also opens up the meibomian glands and helps to restore them to normal function. The warmth also loosens hard material than may have developed on the eyelid margins.
    • Eyelid scrubs - Many years ago, doctors would recommend eyelid scrubs with baby shampoo. This would gently cleanse the area and the baby shampoo would not sting the eye. Now days, commercially prepared packet eyelid scrubs are available that actually work much better. There are several different types available. Some have a pre-medicated antibacterial soap and some have components of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil has been found to work well for other skin conditions as well and is naturally anti-microbial. Talk to your doctor about which one to purchase. You simply open one scrub packet, close your eyes and gently scrub the eyelid and eyelid margins back and forth several times. 
    • Medications - Your doctor may prescribe medications if the inflammation or infection has worsened. Depending on the severity, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or steroid ointments or eye drops to alleviate signs and symptoms. Occasionally, eye doctors will prescribe oral antibiotics for an extended course if topical treatment is not working.

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