This month’s topic is blepharitis – or inflammation of the eyelid margins. Doctors and optometrists will commonly refer to two different types of blepharitis, inner versus outer eyelid margin inflammation, however they often occur together and involve the little oil ducts on the eyelids being blocked. The causes are many and varied – you can get inflammation from bacterial or yeast infections, from contact allergies (mascara is a common one), or inflammation from other skin conditions such as seborrhoiec dermatitis, psoriasis and rosacea.
Blepharitis is uncomfortable and unsightly (bad pun intended!). The eyelids can be red and tender, the eyes weepy and styes can form. Sometimes with chronic inflammation the eyelids can become permanently scarred (obviously it is good to manage the condition early so as not to end up with permanent damage). One concerning feature of chronic blepharitis is the potential for the inflammatory changes to the eyelids to cause damage to the cornea, the clear surface of the eye. This can occur particularly with ocular rosacea, so more severe forms of blepharitis really need to be seen and managed by an eye specialist.
Because of the potential for permanent eye damage it is always best to be checked out by your GP or optometrist, who can work out the likely cause and best management (which are usually very simple, but sometimes will involve further referral to an eye specialist). The general principles for managing simple blepharitis are; avoidance of irritants such as makeup and other potential irritants such as eye drops containing preservatives, the application of a warm pack (about 40 degrees, so not too hot) for 10 minutes twice per day followed by eyelid massage and gentle wiping of the lid margin to unblock the oil ducts and clear the debris. It can also be a good idea to use of non-irritating lubricating eyedrops for any dry-eye symptoms. In some more severe cases, antibiotics or other anti-inflammatory medications will be prescribed by your doctor, optometrist or eye specialist to help the condition to settle.
Dr Cath Hester and Dr Tony Bayliss
These articles are not intended to replace a one-to-one relationship with a qualified health professional or as specific medical advice. They are intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from experience and research in the scientific literature. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon a partnership with a qualified health care professional.