Blepharitis is a medical term for inflamed eyelids—it’s a common eye condition. Although blepharitis can be uncomfortable, it typically won’t cause permanent harm to your eyes or vision.
Whether you’ve already been diagnosed with blepharitis, suspect you might have it, or are simply curious about it, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you might want to know about this condition.
Blepharitis symptoms can sometimes be unpleasant, but they’re manageable. Common symptoms include:
Crusty eyelashes or eyelids (especially when waking up)
Flaking skin around the eyes
Gritty feeling (like something’s in your eye)
Red, swollen eyelids
Tears that appear to be foamy or have bubbles in them
Blurry or fluctuating vision
What Does Blepharitis Look Like?
The most common and visibly noticeable blepharitis symptoms are eyelid redness and puffiness, greasy sheen to the skin, crusty eyelids and lashes in the morning, and red, irritated-looking eyes.
How Long Does Blepharitis Last?
Blepharitis is most often a chronic condition, which means it may persist. Chronic blepharitis requires ongoing care, but with proper treatment, symptoms are manageable without significant disruption to your life.
In rare instances, blepharitis may be acute rather than chronic and occur suddenly. Acute blepharitis is, more simply put, an eyelid infection that’s bacterial, viral, or parasitic.
Seeing signs of blepharitis?
An expert optometrist can help you uncover the root cause and develop a plan for managing your symptoms.
Blepharitis is categorized into two types based on the part of the eyelid that’s affected:
Anterior blepharitis affects the outer edge of the eyelid—where the eyelashes are attached.
Posterior blepharitis affects the inner edge of the eyelid—the part that’s in direct contact with your eye.
Knowing what causes your blepharitis helps with understanding its type and how to treat it. (Psst…that’s why it’s important to have a professional assess and diagnose your condition.)
Anterior Blepharitis Causes
Anterior blepharitis is most often caused by one of the following:
Bacteria: Although everyone has bacteria present on their skin, some people tend to have more than others around their eyelashes. This excess eyelid bacteria can cause the skin to flake. When this is the cause, it may be called staphylococcal blepharitis (or staph blepharitis), named for the staphylococcal bacteria.
Dandruff: Sometimes, the cause of blepharitis can be skin related. When dandruff of the scalp or eyebrows is the cause, it’s called seborrheic blepharitis.
Mites: Don’t be alarmed—believe it or not, everyone has microscopic mites that live in their eyelash follicles. But in rare instances, these mites can overpopulate the follicles and cause blepharitis.
Posterior Blepharitis Causes
Posterior blepharitis typically occurs when small oil-producing glands in the eyelid (the meibomian glands) aren’t working as they should. This can encourage eyelid bacteria growth and cause meibomian gland dysfunction. Posterior blepharitis can also stem from skin conditions like dandruff and rosacea.
Treating blepharitis usually centers around keeping your eyelids clean, an activity you should incorporate into your daily routine for the long term. Your eye doctor may suggest gentle cleansers or scrubs to help combat eyelid crust and to keep your eyelids clean.
Blepharitis treatments may vary depending on the root cause and your symptoms. Your doctor will perform a thorough exam to determine what treatment is best for you. They may suggest artificial tears or prescription eye drops in addition to good eyelid hygiene. Antibiotic or antiviral medication may also be required if an active infection is present.
Sometimes, blepharitis can lead to other issues, such as:
A chalazion: A bump on the eyelid that forms because oil glands in the eyelid are blocked. Unlike a stye, a chalazion isn’t an active infection.
A stye: A painful bump on the eyelid that results from an infection in the eyelid’s oil glands is called a stye.
Chronic eye redness: Blepharitis may cause long-term eye redness.
Dry eyes: A buildup of flakes and oil in your tear film can impact your eyes’ ability to make tears, which could cause dry eye syndrome.
In rare cases, blepharitis can cause more serious problems, such as:
Eyelashes that grow in abnormal directions
Loss of eyelashes
Swelling or damage to other parts of the eye (like the cornea)
When To See a Doctor for Blepharitis
It’s important to see an eye doctor when you’re experiencing any out-of-the-ordinary eye symptoms. Even though blepharitis is most often not a threat to your vision, it can cause problems if you don’t treat it properly or address underlying issues. It’s always best to get an expert diagnosis.
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