Blepharitis- Causes and Cure

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid margins. It’s like having dandruff of your lashes. It’s one the most common problem of the eyelid; it also happens to be one of the most difficult conditions to treat.

Causes

Blepharitis usually is caused by an infection of a common skin bacteria called Staphylococcus. Other causes include:

  • Seborrhea (similar to dandruff along the eyelid margins).
  • Plugged glands that open along the eyelid margin.
  • The infection may flare up during times of stress or tension.
  • It is aggravated by sleeplessness or dry eyes.

Symptoms

  • Redness of the lid margins and the eye
  • Itchy or irritated lid margins
  • Crusting of the lid margins or lashes
  • A dry feeling
  • A sandy or scratchy feeling to the eye
  • Eye fatigue

These symptoms tend to wax and wane and tend to be worse upon awakening in the morning. Dry eye very frequently accompanies blepharitis causing the dry, sandy sensation.

Treatment

The treatment for blepharitis aims to reduce the bacterial counts along the lid margin and open the plugged glands.

  • Apply heat to the lids for 15 to 20 minutes two times a day for one month then once a day. This heat can be in the form of a warm compress or heating pad.
  • Scrub the lid margins with a cotton tip applicator soaked in diluted baby shampoo. Commercially available pads for lid scrubs are available in drug stores and may substitute for the applicators.
  • Sometimes an antibiotic called doxycycline is required, which not only acts to minimize the bacteria but also acts as an anti-oxidant helping to open the plugged glands.
  • A short course of antibiotic ointment to the lashes at night and/or systemic antibiotics may be required. But since this tends to be a chronic problem, it’s a not a first line of action.

The important thing to remember is that blepharitis is a chronic condition and that it is extremely difficult to make the condition go away with the treatment. In the majority of cases, the treatment only reduce the symptoms but do not make them go away. This is because the Staphylococcus organisms are difficult to eradicate and the glands rarely regain normal function. So you have to continue maintaining the hygiene of your eyes.

Directions for a Warm Soak of the Eyelids

  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Moisten a clean washcloth with warm water.
  • Close eyes and place washcloth on eyelids for about 5 minutes.
  • Repeat several times daily.

Directions for an Eyelid Scrub

  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Mix warm water and a small amount of shampoo that does not irritate the eye (baby shampoo) or use a commercially prepared lid scrub solution recommended by your optometrist.
  • Close one eye and using a clean wash cloth (a different one for each eye), rub the solution back and forth across the eyelashes and the edge of the eyelid.
  • Rinse with clear, cool water.
  • Repeat with the other eye.

When scalp dandruff is present, a dandruff shampoo for the hair is recommended as well.