Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a common condition that involves inflammation of the eyelids. It is often persistent and usually effects both eyes, however its symptoms can be reduced if effort is made to maintain good eyelid hygiene.

Those more likely to be affected by Blepharitis are people who have a fair complexion and skin conditions such as oily skin or dandruff. Blepharitis is caused by the production of unhealthy lubricating oils in the glands in the eyelids which can result in the eyes becoming dry and irritable. Blepharitis is not contagious and your eyesight will rarely be affected however, it can be an uncomfortable and irritating condition.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms may be constant or intermittent.

Common symptoms include redness of the eyes, the eyelids appearing inflamed and a crusty coating may develop along the base of the eyelashes and along the edge of the eyelids.

Often an itching or burning sensation develops, or you may feel like something is in your eye when you blink.

Sometimes you may experience excessive production of tears or watering and cysts or styes may develop in the eyelids.

Most often both eyes are affected, but sometimes the symptoms appear more prominent in one eye.

TREATMENT

There is no immediate cure for Blepharitis however, if you maintain good eyelid hygiene you can control the symptoms. Your hygiene routine should aim to soothe the eyelids, unplug any blocked meibomian glands (the tiny glands in the eyelids that lie just behind the eyelashes) and clear out any stagnant oily secretions from these glands.

Your routine should be carried out daily and must consist of three parts: warmth, massage and cleansing. Remove any contact lenses before following the routine.

Warmth

Warmth should be applied to the eye(s) for 4-5 minutes with a specially designed heat bag. A moist cloth can also be used.

Massage

Immediately after applying the warmth massage the upper and lower eyelids towards the edge of the lids, for example from top to bottom on the upper lids. The idea is that you are moving the oily secretions toward the edge of the eyelid so that they can come out of the glands. Massage 5 to 10 times over about 30 seconds immediately following the warming.

Massaging should be neither too gentle nor too firm. It should be relatively comfortable and you should not press hard enough to actually hurt your eyeball under the closed lids. Always massage with the eyes shut.

Cleansing

After the warmth and massage stages you must clean the eyelids.

There are a number of ways this can be done, but the traditional method is to use a cotton wool bud that has been dipped in diluted baby shampoo (add a few drops of baby shampoo to a small cup of warm water).

Squeeze out excess liquid from the cotton bud to prevent drips getting into your eyes, then try to clean off any crusts at the base of the eyelids. After cleaning the eyelids with the cotton wool bud, wash off the shampoo from the eyelids, using a flannel or cloth. You can buy special lid wipes from the chemist which are sometimes more effective.

When Blepharitis symptoms flare up you should follow the above routine at least twice daily until they settle. Once the symptoms have eased, keep doing this routine once a day, every day, to prevent further flare-ups.

DRY EYES

Blepharitis is often associated with dry eyes. This is because part of the tear film is produced by the meibomian glands so if they are blocked or not working well, your eyes will not be as well lubricated.

Tear dysfunction can lead to excess tear production and watering. In fact Blepharitis is the most common cause of watery eyes.

In this case eye drops may help ease symptoms. You may need to use them regularly to ease dry, irritated eyes.