Blepharitis is the most common inflammation of the eyelids. It may be asymptomatic or can cause irritation, burning, and redness of the lids or conjunctiva. People with a tendency towards dandruff, oily skin, acne rosacea or dry eyes are more frequently affected. Blepharitis can begin early in life affecting children and continue throughout life as a chronic condition or it can manifest itself later in life.
Each person has normal bacteria present on the surface of their skin and most people will never be bothered by it. This same bacteria, on certain individuals, tends to thrive at the base of the eyelashes. Irritation may result from an abnormality or over-activity of the nearby oil glands (meibomian glands) causing scales and particles to form along the lashes and eyelid margins.
The effects of blepharitis are different for each person. Some people are affected with only minor irritation and itching from the scales or bacteria, but others may be affected with redness and/or a burning sensation. An allergic response to the scales or bacteria that surround them may develop.
Treatment - Caring for Blepharitis
Treating blepharitis is more controlling the symptoms than curing the condition. Often times blepharitis cannot be cured, but it is possible to control the condition by following the instructions below:
1. Using a warm, moist washcloth, place it over the closed eyelids for a several minutes at least twice a day. It may be necessary to remoisten it as it cools down. This will be helpful to soften and loosen scales and other particles on the eyelids. This treatment also helps to prevent the development of a chalazion, which is an inflamed lump within an eyelid oil gland.
2. It is important to gently rub the base of the lashes about 15 seconds per lid with a cloth-covered finger, cotton swab or commercial lint-free pad.
3. If your doctor has prescribed an antibiotic ointment, apply a small amount at the base of the lashes using a cotton swab or fingertip. This is generally done at bedtime.
If the blepharitis is not able to be controlled by the above measures, it may be necessary to add one or all of the following medications:
1. Artificial tears may be helpful to relieve dry eye symptoms. These eye drops are available without a prescription.
2. Steroids may be used to decrease inflammation short-term.
3. Antibiotics will be helpful at decreasing bacterial content of the eyelids. In severe cases it may be necessary for long-term use of tetracycline. This medication is taken orally and is routinely used by patients with a skin condition called rosacea.
REMEMBER: To control blepharitis, it is necessary for the patient to actively cleanse the lashes daily by applying warm compresses as described and remembering that medications alone are not adequate.
Thank you to Dr. Ivan Jacobs, our guest blogger today, for sharing his insights and knowledge with us.