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Blepharitis

Eyelid inflammation; Meibomian gland dysfunction

Blepharitis is manifest by inflamed, irritated, itchy, and reddened eyelids. It most often occurs where the eyelashes grow. Dandruff-like debris builds up at the base of the eyelashes as well.

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Eye
Blepharitis

Causes

The exact cause of blepharitis is unknown. It is thought to be due to:

Blepharitis is more likely to be seen in people with:

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

You may feel like you have sand or dust in your eye when you blink. Sometimes, the eyelashes may fall out. The eyelids may become scarred if the condition continues long-term.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider can most often make the diagnosis by looking at the eyelids during an eye exam. Special photos of the glands that produce oil for the eyelids can be taken to see if they are healthy or not.

Treatment

Cleaning the edges of the eyelid every day will help remove excess bacteria and oil. Your provider might recommend using baby shampoo or special cleansers. Using an antibiotic ointment on the eyelid or taking antibiotic pills may help treat the problem. It may also help to take fish oil supplements.

If you have blepharitis:

A device has recently been developed that can warm and massage the eyelids to increase the flow of oil from the glands. The role of this device in treatment of blepharitis remains unclear.

A drug containing hypochlorous acid, which is sprayed onto the eyelids is helpful in certain cases of blepharitis, especially when rosacea is also present.

If Demodex is suspected as the cause, tea tree oil applied to the lids by your provider can be helpful; a new prescription medicine may soon be available.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome is most often good with treatment. You may need to keep the eyelid clean to prevent the problem from coming back. Continuing treatment will ease redness and help make your eyes more comfortable.

Styes and chalazia are more common in people with blepharitis. 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if symptoms get worse or do not improve after several days of carefully cleaning your eyelids.

Prevention

Cleaning the eyelids carefully will help reduce the chances of getting blepharitis. Treat skin conditions that may add to the problem.

Related Information

Seborrheic dermatitis
Allergies
Body lice
Scales
Eyelid bump
Chalazion
Rosacea
Corneal ulcers and infections
Conjunctivitis or pink eye

References

Blackie CA, Coleman CA, Holland EJ. The sustained effect (12 months) of a single-dose vectored thermal pulsation procedure for meibomian gland dysfunction and evaporative dry eye. Clin Ophthalmol. 2016;10:1385-1396. PMID: 27555745 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27555745/.

Cioffi GA, Liebmann JM. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 395.

Isteitiya J, Gadaria-Rathod N, Fernandez KB, Asbell PA. Blepharitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.4.

Kagkelaris KA, Makri OE, Georgakopoulos CD, Panayiotakopoulos GD. An eye for azithromycin: review of the literature. Ther Adv Ophthalmol. 2018;10:2515841418783622. PMID: 30083656 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30083656/.

Shah PP, Stein RL, Perry HD. Update on the management of Demodex blepharitis. Cornea. 2022;41(8):934-939. PMID: 34743107 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34743107/.

Trattler W, Karpecki P, Rapoport Y, et al. The prevalence of Demodex blepharitis in US eye care clinic patients as determined by collarettes: a pathognomonic sign. Clin Ophthalmol. 2022;16:1153-1164. PMID: 35449733 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35449733/.

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Review Date: 8/22/2022  

Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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