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What is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is the medical term for inflammation of the margins of the eye lids. It usually affects both eyes.

What are the symptoms?

Blepharitis may cause one or more of the following:

  • Persistent irritation or “burning” sensation.
  • Itchiness around the eye.
  • Sensation of “grit” in the eye.
  • Scales on the eye lashes.
  • Redness and swelling of the eyelid margins.
  • Crusting of the eyelids, especially in the mornings.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Blurring of vision often helped by blinking.
  • Redness of the eye.
  • Eyelid cysts/styes/chalazions

How long will it last?

This condition is due to your skin type and thus cannot be cured. However, most people can control it with the measures discussed below although you may still suffer occasional flare-ups.

 

Is it serious?

No, although blepharitis can be uncomfortable for the sufferer, it rarely causes problems to the eye itself.

 

Is it an infection?

No, but there may be over activity of normal skin organisms. These germs (bacteria and occasional fungi) flourish in debris/secretions that build up on the edge of the eyelids. This is why regular cleaning of the eyelids is important.

What is the treatment?

A combination of many forms of treatment is used.

  • Warm compresses.
  • Careful cleaning of the eyelids and eyelashes.
  • Antibiotic ointment, if prescribed.
  • Artificial tears.

However, the mainstay of treatment is always careful cleaning of the eyelids and lashes to remove the irritating substances.

The treatment will need to be carried out twice a day. The frequency can, however, be progressively reduced as the condition responds to the treatment.

The aim of the treatment is to minimise your symptoms and keep your eyes more comfortable. Remember that blepharitis is a skin condition that may be with you for all your life. Regular lid hygiene should therefore become part of your daily routine. This includes:

  1. Warm compresses – soak a clean face cloth in warm water; as warm as the eyelids can take. Apply it to the closed eyelids for 5 to 10 minutes. You may need to re-warm the cloth; this will make the scales on the lashes easier to remove.
  1. Eyelid cleaning – cleaning of both the upper and lower eyelids, eyelid margins and eyelashes is extremely important. You can do this with either:
  • A clean cotton wool bud and a solution of diluted baby shampoo. (the solution should be made up in a ratio of 4 drops of shampoo to ¼ cup of warm water; preferably warm water that has been cooled after boiling).

OR

  • A clean cotton wool bud and water as warm as you can manage, cooled from boiled water.

OR

  • A clean cotton wool bud and a solution of diluted bicarbonate of soda. (The solution should be made up of 1 pinch of bicarbonate to an eggcup of water cooled as above).

OR

  • You can use a product from your local pharmacy which has been specifically developed to clean eyelids thoroughly and gently.

Clean the eyelids, eyelid margins and eyelashes with a side to side motion. This should be carried out as often as directed by your doctor. This is usually twice a day.

  1. Antibiotic ointment – if an antibiotic has been prescribed by your doctor, you should apply the ointment following the compresses and lid cleaning. Place a small amount of ointment on your clean fingertip and rub it into the upper and lower lid margin and lashes usually morning and night.

This is often used for a number of weeks. It is then possible to get further prescriptions from your eye doctor, GP or pharmacist to use intermittently in the future if your condition flares up again.

  1. Artificial tears – these can help if your eyes are uncomfortable or gritty. They may also help if you have watery eyes. These can be used regularly long term and repeat prescription can be obtained from your eye doctor, GP or pharmacist. There are many different artificial tears available and you may need to try a few to find the one that suits you the best.

Having followed the steps above, you should expect improvement within 2 – 8 weeks of starting the treatment. Once comfortable, regular cleansing may be reduced to alternate days or as necessary.

Blepharitis usually responds well to treatment, long term cleaning of the eye lids will need to be continued. Always be prepared to increase treatment should symptoms return.

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