If your eyelid margins are red and irritated, if they burn and itch, or if you have noticed an oily discharge or scaly skin around them, you may have an inflammatory problem called "blepharitis". Some people describe this as "psoriasis of the eyelids".

Blepharitis is a common, long-term inflammation of the eyelids and eyelashes. It affects people of all ages. Symptoms include irritation, itching, and occasionally a red eye. This condition frequently occurs in people who have a tendency towards oily skin, dandruff, or dry eyes. Less frequently does ulcerative blepharitis occur, in which hard crusts form around the eyelashes that can bleed or ooze when removed. If not treated, loss of eyelashes, distortion of the front edge of the eyelids, and chronic tearing could occur.

What are the causes of blepharitis?
Bacteria reside on the surface of everyone's skin at the base of the eyelashes. The resulting irritation, sometimes associated with over-activity of the nearby oil glands, causes dandruff-like scales and particles to form along the lashes and eyelid margins. Sometimes the scaling or bacteria produce only minor irritation and itching, but in some they may cause redness, stinging, or burning. Some people may develop a sensitivity or allergic reaction to the scales and bacteria which surround them. This can lead to more serious complications, including an inflammation of the eye tissues, particularly the cornea. Poor lid hygiene allows bacteria to reside on the lids and lashes, which in turn can cause blepharitis as well.

What are the treatments?
Blepharitis is usually not serious and can be treated easily. In certain cases, it may not be cured, but it can be controlled with a few simple daily measures. If left untreated, it can be very uncomfortable, unattractive, and lead to more serious problems.

To treat blepharitis, daily lid hygiene is required, which can include lid scrubs, warm soaks, and other various measures. It is important to keep the lid edges and surrounding skin clean with these techniques. Medicated pads and solutions sold at Visualeyes Optometry may be required.

For more serious cases, ointments containing antibiotics and sulfonamides should be applied to the edges of the eyelids with a cotton ball. Steroid drop can also be prescribed by our optometrists to calm the inflammation.

While over-the-counter treatments for blepharitis are available, it is advisable to consult with our optometrists the first time you experience this condition. If you have had blepharitis before and had experience with its treatment, using the over-the-counter ointments may be adequate. But, whether you have had the condition before or not, if the blepharitis is infectious, you should call our optometrists as soon as possible to reduce the risk of having the infection spread and cause more serious conditions.