The causes of blepharitis
The human eye has approximately 75 tiny oil glands in each eyelid. These glands, called Meibomian glands, are found right along the margin of the eyelid, near the eyelashes. Meibomian glands play an important role in our eye health, lending oil to our tears so that our eyes don’t dry up too quickly. When these oil glands malfunction, dry eye and other problems can occur, including blepharitis. Blepharitis in particular occurs when these oil glands fail to function correctly, causing inflammation. There are two types of blepharitis:
Anterior blepharitis, which occurs when the front exterior of the eyelid is swollen Posterior blepharitis, which occurs when oil in the underside of the eyelid is erratically produced. This is the most common type of blepharitis.
The causes of blepharitis can be variable, often rooted in more than one issue. Issues that can contribute to this type of eyelid inflammation include dry eye, mites or lice on the eyelashes, Rosacea, Seborrheic dermatitis - dandruff, clogged oil glands, or bacterial infections. Allergies are also associated with blepharitis, particularly allergic responses to eye makeup, contact lens solution, or certain eye care medications.
Blepharitis symptoms and complications
Blepharitis is a disease that primarily causes discomfort and an unsightly appearance, but it is very rarely contagious and it does not cause more serious conditions like blindness. If you have blepharitis, it may be comforting to know that many people experience it to varying degrees. Ophthalmologists and optometrists report that nearly half of their patients have shown some symptoms of this common condition.
Patients who are diagnosed with blepharitis often have eyes that appear red, swollen, and crusted over or scaly. They often experience sensations of itching, dryness, and grittiness. After sleeping, the sandman may deposit much more sand, or discharge, than you may normally be used to. It can even become a bit difficult to peel open your eyes in the morning due to the thick deposit of crust on the eyelids, but washing helps. Other symptoms of blepharitis include: A burning feeling in the eyelids Blurry vision Excessive need to blink A feeling of something always in your eye Itching Dryness Greasy eyelids Excessive tearing up Redness Swollenness Irritation Crusting of eyelashes or corners of eyelids Flaking of the skin around the eyelids Photophobia, or sensitivity to light
In addition to these symptoms, blepharitis may also be associated with further complications. The eyelashes can begin to grow in abnormal directions or patterns, or may excessively fall out or lose their color. Long term blepharitis can cause scarring of the eyelids’ delicate skin, or cause eventual inward or outward turning of eyelid edges.
A sty, which is another form of eyelid infection, may develop on the edge of the eyelid and cause a noticeable bump. A chalazion may also occur, which is the infection of a single oil gland that can add to the swollen, red appearance of the eyelid. Chronic conjunctivitis, or pink eye, can also sometimes occur.
Finally, corneal injuries or ulcers may occur if constant irritation of the eye does not improve, or if tears are not adequately produced to protect the eye. These injuries are the result of corneal sores or infections. All of this risk can be mitigated, however, with proper care. Let’s explore our blepharitis management options, below.
Treatment options for blepharitis
Before deciding on the best treatment route for you, your eye doctor will first carry out several simple tests to help them determine a blepharitis diagnosis. They will first need to examine your external eyelids while also discussing your symptoms and health history. Next, your doctor may need to take sample swabs around your eyelids and send the discharge or tears to a lab for analysis. Your doctor may also want to inspect your eyelashes under a microscope and ook for mites or lice. Rare and extreme cases of eyelid swelling may warrant a biopsy in order to rule out any abnormal or cancerous cells.
Depending upon the type of blepharitis you have, as well as any co-occurring conditions, your eye doctor may prescribe antibiotics, either in oral, eyedrop, or topical ointment form. Anti-inflammatory eye drops or eye creams may also be recommended, depending on how strong your inflammation is. Some doctors may also prescribe immunomodulators, which block the body’s natural immune response in order to allow the inflammation to ease.
Finally, it's important to note that if and when any root cause or complication is diagnosed alongside the blepharitis, then that issue will be addressed as well. For example, lubricating eye drops for dry eye can help, or if dandruff is determined to be a culprit, then special shampoo can help to ease the interrelated symptoms of blepharitis, its causes, and its complications.
You have several at home blepharitis management options, as well. First off, proper hygiene is your best friend. Wash your face and eye area twice daily. If you are experiencing a particularly bad flare up, then wash up three to four times a day. Make sure to only wash and dry with clean washcloths and towels. Your eye care specialist may also have particular soaps or creams they recommend for blepharitis so don’t hesitate to ask.
A warm compress made of a clean, damp cloth can also greatly soothe the eyes and help loosen up any lingering eyelid crust. Some people also experience relief with black tea bags as eyelid compresses - black tea is mildly antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.
Use lubricating, artificial tears to help your eyes produce the optimal amount of moisture they need. You should also consider foregoing wearing any makeup, particularly during blepharitis flare ups. Makeup adds more irritation and debris that can contribute to and worse inflammation.
While blepharitis is an uncomfortable and less than aesthetically pleasing condition, it can be easily managed under the care and guidance of a trusted eye care professional. Simple hygiene goes a long way in making the symptoms less physically noticeable, while regular eye care appointments will ensure that you stay on track with your treatment protocol. If you are experiencing any eye or eyelid symptoms that cause you discomfort, contact us to set up an appointment today.