BLEPHARITIS

Blepharitis literally means “inflammation of the eyelid margins”.  It is a very common condition and can lead to various eye symptoms.  If often reflects the patient’s underlying skin condition.

Cause:

  • Seborrhoea:  This skin condition is similar to “dandruff”.  The lid margin particularly at the lash margins are covered by “crust and scale”.
  • Skin infections:  Skin infections like “golden staph” and other bacteria can contribute towards this.
  • Meibomianitis:  This literally means increased oily secretions from the meibomian glands.  The “oily foam” can irritate the eye.

Symptoms:

Often blepharitis co-exists with dry eye and share many similar symptoms.  These include:

  • Itch
  • Blurry vision
  • Burning
  • Grittiness

Treatment:

IMPORTANT:  There is no cure for blepharitis.  Often is reflects the patient’s underlying skin condition.  Treatment is directed at minimising its effects on the eye.

The regimen includes:

  1. Hot compresses:  Dip a face washer / towel in warm to hot water – then apply it to the eyelids (eyes closed) for one minute.  Massage the lids in a direction perpendicular to the lid margin.  This softens the oily secretions and encourages flow through the meibomian glands.
  2. Lid scrubs:  The simplest way here involves baby shampoo.  Mix 1 part baby shampoo with 4 parts of water.  Use a cotton bud to clean the lid edge as well as the base of the eyelids.
  3. Artificial Tears:  This helps with dry eyes and also soothes.
  4. Topical Steroids:  In severe cases, a weak steroid can be used for a short period to reduce the induced inflammation.  Long term steroid use is avoided as there is increased risk of glaucoma and cataract formation from this.
  5. Antibiotics:  In some cases oral antibiotics can be prescribed.  A class of antibiotics called the Tetracyclines have been shown to reduce infection as well as alter the composition of the oily secretions.  This may be used for a short period.

TAKE HOME POINTS:     

  1. This is a highly common condition.
  2. The course is relapsing and remitting.  Treatment regimen needs to be maintained to minimise its effects.  Treatment does not cure the problem.

Click here for Blepharitis Fact Sheet