Blepharitis is a common and often chronic inflammation of the eyelids caused by the overgrowth of bacteria that normally live on our skin. In eyelids affected by blepharitis, too much oil is produced by the oil glands of the lid; the oil glands get plugged up and this further exacerbates the inflammation.
Common symptoms of blepharitis include red, itchy, swollen lids, crusting around the lashes (especially upon awakening), and a gritty sensation in the eyes. People with blepharitis are more likely to develop styes or have eyelash loss.
Simple changes in your daily hygiene routine can make a big difference in the health of your eyelids. In the morning and evening, place a warm washcloth over your closed eyes for several minutes. (Hint: heat a damp washcloth in the microwave and it will stay warm longer. Just be careful not to make it too hot!) The heat from the washcloth helps “melt” the plugged oil secretions from your lids so they can be wiped away. After using the warm washcloth, put a small amount of “no-tear” baby shampoo on the washcloth, work up a lather and very gently scrub the lids with your eyes closed. This will help clear the crusting and debris that often accumulates on the lids and lashes.
Other helpful treatments include over-the-counter artificial tear drops to help keep the eyes lubricated. If the blepharitis is more advanced, we may recommend that you use topical or oral antibiotics for a period of time to help combat the overgrowth of the bacteria. Short courses of mild topical steroids (either drops or ointments) may also be used to decrease the inflammation.