What is blepharitis?
Blepharitis causes eyelids to become red, swollen and inflamed. It doesn’t normally cause serious damage to the eyes, but it can be very uncomfortable. It tends to be a long-term condition, which means you’re likely to need ongoing treatment. Severe cases do have a risk of causing long-term damage, but fortunately these are quite rare.
Types of blepharitis
There are two main types of blepharitis – anterior and posterior.
When the front (anterior) part of the eyelids becomes sore, this can be caused by an infection, allergy or a general sensitivity to bacteria present on the eyelids. It can also be associated with some scalp conditions, such as very dry or oily skin and dandruff.
Also known as meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is when the glands that make the oily part of your tears become blocked. Both types of blepharitis can cause dry eye or make it worse if you already have it. Many people will have a combination of blepharitis, meibomian gland dysfunction and dry eye.
Blepharitis is more common in people over the age of 50, but anyone can develop it. This is often because the glands that make the normal tears, particularly the oily part of the tears, tend to become less effective as you get older.
Blepharitis can cause crusting and white scales may stick to the roots of eyelashes. Your eyelid edges may become red and your eyes will feel gritty, burning, sore or itchy. If you experience these symptoms, make an appointment with your optometrist.
There is a range of products designed especially for treating blepharitis, such as sterile pads, individual moist wipes and separate cleaning solutions.
Your optometrist will be able to advise you on where you can buy these products. Antibiotic ointment may be recommended in severe cases.
As part of the treatment, you need to remove all the crusting and debris from the edge of your eyelids and from between your eyelashes. You should use your cleaning product. If this is not available, you should use warm water and cotton balls or make-up removal pads. Treatment of blepharitis is a long-term procedure. You may not see any improvement for several weeks.
Continue the treatment twice a day for at least one month, then less often as it starts to get better. You will probably need to continue to clean your lids at least twice a week to help prevent the blepharitis from returning.
Blepharitis treatment method
- Wash your hands before and after cleaning your eyelids
- Rub the moistened pad or cotton ball firmly but gently along the eyelid edges to remove the crusts and debris
- Take care to wipe between the eyelashes of both the upper and lower lids
- Use a fresh pad or wipe each time
- Dry your eyes gently
Resources for your practice
You can download our patient leaflet on blepharitis.
If you're a practitioner, we recommend that you use this information, following a suitable examination, to reinforce advice given to the patient who has symptoms of blepharitis.
For more information on eye health go to our For patients section.