Blepharitis Symptoms and Treatment
What is blepharitis
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid. It is a common eye disorder which affects people of all ages, but is not contagious. The symptoms of blepharaitis can include:
- Red and/or swollen eyelids
- Dandruff-like flakes on the eyelashes
- Gritty feeling in the eye
- Foreign body sensation
- Dry eye
- Blurry vision
- Loss of eyelashes
- Damage to the cornea or other eye tissue
Two types of blepharitis
Anterior blepharitis affects the front edge of the eyelid, where the eyelashes are attached. It can be caused by bacteria or scalp and eyebrow dandruff. It can also be caused by allergies or parasite infestation of the eyelashes, but these causes are less common.
Posterior blepharitis affects the inner edge of the eyelid, where it is contact with the eyeball. It can be caused by problems with the oil glands in the eyelid (called the meibomian glands). When these glands are not functioning properly, bacterial growth can result. Posterior blepharitis can also be caused by certain skin conditions such as scalp dandruff and acne rosacea.
Blepharitis is classified into two types, with different causes and presentation:
To properly diagnose blepharitis, your eye doctor will perform a complete eye exam, with emphasis on a few specific areas. Thorough examination of the skin, eyelids and eyelashes will be performed. The doctor may also use magnification to more closely examine the eyelid edges, base of the eyelashes, and meibomian gland openings. He or she will also pay attention to the amount and quality of tears present, and take a patient history to find out if any other medical conditions you have could be contributing to the problem.
Specific symptoms can help your eye doctor determine what is causing your blepharitis. Bacterial infection (Staphyloccal blepharitis) is likely if the lids are sticking together, thickened lid edges are present, and there are missing eyelashes. If however, there is mild redness, and greasy flakes are present at the base of the eye, dandruff (Seborrheic blepharitis) is the most likely cause. The symptoms of Meibomian blepharitis (inflammation caused by the oil glands) included blocked glands, redness of the eyelid lining, and poor tear quality.
Ulcerative blepharitis is a more severe form of the disease, characterized by hard crusts around the eyelashes which, when removed, reveal oozing, bleeding sores. Other signs include distorted eyelid edges, excessive tearing, and missing eyelashes.
Blepharitis is a difficult disease to manage. Even with treatment, the problem will likely recur. Your doctor will tell you the best treatment for your specific problem, which may include:
- Cleansing the eyelids with warm water, salt water, diluted baby shampoo, or an over-the-counter lid cleansing product.
- Warm compresses to loosen crusts and/or plugs blocking the oil glands
- Massaging the lids to clear the oil glands
- Temporarily or permanently discontinuing the use of contact lenses and/or switching from soft contacts to rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses.
- Wearing only certain eye makeup or none at all
- Use of anti-dandruff shampoo on the scalp and/or eyebrows
- Oral or topical antibiotics
- Artificial tears or lubricating ointment
- Steroids to control inflammation
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