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Blepharitis

  |  Common Eye Conditions   |  Blepharitis

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.

Causes:

  • 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 to 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 shares many symptoms.  These include:

  • Itch
  • Blurry vision
  • Burning
  • Grittiness

Treatment:

IMPORTANT:  There is no cure for blepharitis. Often it 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 (with 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 water.  Use a cotton bud to clean the lid edge as well as the base of the eyelids.
  3. Artificial Tears:  This helps improve dry eye symptoms and is also soothing.
  4. Topical Steroids: In severe cases, a weak steroid can be used for a short period to reduce inflammation.  Long term steroid use is best avoided due to the risks of glaucoma and cataract formation.
  5. Antibiotics: In some cases oral antibiotics can be prescribed. A class of antibiotics called Tetracyclines have been shown to reduce infection as well as alter the composition of the oily secretions. Short courses of these medicines can help for extended periods in some patients.

TAKE HOME POINTS:

  1. Blepharitis is a common condition
  2. It is a chronic condition, often relapsing and remitting. Treatment needs to be maintained to keep the condition under control, but does not cure the problem
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