Blepharitis: Eyelid Inflammation Symptoms, Causes And Treatments

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is the medical term for an inflammation of the eyelid.

The word comes from the Greek word blepharon, which means eyelid.

And itis denotes inflammation in English.

It is a common eyelid disorder that can be result of bacterial infection, dry eyes or a skin condition such as dandruff of the scalp or acne rosacea.

Even though annoying and uncomfortable, this eyelid infection is not contagious and usually not damaging to your vision.

However, if left untreated, it can lead to severe scarring of eyelid, loss and misdirection of eyelash and even ulceration of the cornea.




What Causes Blepharitis?

Till date, it is unclear about the exact cause of this eyelid inflammation.

However, there are several associations with the development of this eyelid disorder.


Bacteria

All of us carry bacteria (especially staphylococcus) on our skin. At normal level, they are harmless to us.

However, warm and moist environment such as the eyelids provide an ideal place for them to flourish and overgrow.

Notice the visible capillaries and directions of the eyelashes?Notice the visible capillaries and directions of the eyelashes?

This becomes a problem for certain people as they are more vulnerable to bacterial attacks.

The bacteria infection can cause loss of eyelashes and dandruff like scales to form along the lashes and the edges of the eyelid.

In addition, this type of eyelid inflammation is often accompanied by pink eye, a common form of eye infection

Bacteria induced blepharitis is usually more severe.

Without treatment, it can cause long-term effects such as dilated and visible capillaries, abnormal turning in or out of eyelid, thickened lid margins, and ingrown eyelashes which may cause cornea erosion.


Dysfunctional Oil (Meibomian) Glands

There are up to 40 oil glands in each of our eyelid and they secrete oil to lubricate our eyes and prevent tear evaporation

See how the oil glands are enlargedSee how the oil glands are enlarged

However, there are times that they produce too little or the abnormal type of oil.  

Acne rosacea, a common skin inflammation, is sometimes the underlying cause of this process. 

The abnormality leads to the eyelid becoming inflamed and itchy, while the eye becoming dry and more easily infected.

Dry eye syndrome is often a by product of such situation.

Clogged meibomian glands also can cause stye or chalazion.


Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic blepharitis

A skin condition that creates flaking and dandruff on the scalp and eyebrows.

This skin disorder may cause the glands to produce excessive amounts of oil; providing an ideal environment where bacteria can multiply rapidly.  

Fungi or certain types of yeast (such as Malassezia furfur)  that feed on oils (lipids) in the skin may cause blepharitis too.


Others (Uncommon)

Eyelid inflammation may also be caused by viral, an infestation of lice on the eyelashes, eyelash mites (tiny organisms in the eyelash follicles) or an allergic reaction to medications, contact lens solutions or eye makeup.


Symptoms

You may have blepharitis if you are experiencing:

  • Itchy eyelid
  • Watery eyes
  • Loss of eyelashes
  • Gritty sensation in the eyes
  • Crusted eyelashes or eyelids
  • Flakiness of eyelid skin at the edges of the lids
  • Redness and swelling of eyelids
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Higher sensitivity to light
  • Eyelids appearing greasy
  • Dry and burning eyes


Risk Factors

You are at higher risks of getting this eyelid disease if you:

  • Have cancer
  • Have dry eyes
  • Have oily skin
  • Have poor face hygiene
  • Are working in dusty environments
  • Have skin conditions such as acne rosacea




Complications

It is uncommon for blepharitis to cause serious vision damage, however there are some complications which has to be taken note of.

  • Stye - a pimple-like bump caused by bacterial infection of clogged oil gland.
  • Chalazion - a painless round lump that is caused by inflammation due to clogged oil glands. Occurs mainly on the inner eyelid.
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis) - recurring inflammation of the conjunctiva (a thin layer of membrane between the inner surface of the eyelids and the whites of the eyes).
  • Dry eye - excessive tear evaporation due to reduced oil production.
  • Changes to the eyelash - severe loss in numbers and misdirection.
  • Corneal ulcer - constant irritation from inflamed eyelids or misdirected eyelashes may cause an open sore to develop on your cornea.


Treatments Available

A one-off complete cure doesn't exist yet.

However, good eyelid hygiene and medication can control this eyelid inflammation.

Nutritional therapy is believed to help speed up recovery also.

Treatments include:

  • Warm compresses and eyelid massages - to improve blood circulation and loosen oil ducts.
  • Regular eyelid scrubs - to remove debris and bacteria.
  • Antibiotics - if suspected to have bacterial or viral infection .
  • Artificial tears - to relieve dry eyes.
  • Steroid eyedrops or ointments - to reduce inflammation.
  • Nutritional therapy (Omega-3) - Promote proper regulation of oil glands.

For more details, please see Treatments For Blepharitis.


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