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Blepharitis

Definition

Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelash follicles, along the edge of the eyelid.

Alternative Names

Eyelid inflammation

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Blepharitis is caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria that is normally found on the skin. It is usually due to seborrheic dermatitis or a bacterial infection. Both may occur at the same time.

The cause is overgrowth of the bacteria that is normally found on the skin.

Allergies and lice that affects the eyelashes may also cause blepharitis, although these causes are less common.

People who have blepharitis have too much oil being produced by the glands near the eyelid. This allows bacteria normally found on the skin to overgrow.

Blepharitis may be linked to repeated styes and chalazia. You are more likely to develop this condition if you have seborrheic dermatitis of the face or scalp, rosacea, lice, and allergies.

Symptoms

The eyelids appear red and irritated, with scales that stick to the base of the eyelashes. The eyelids may be:

  • Crusty
  • Reddened
  • Swollen
  • Itching
  • Burning

You may feel like you have sand or dust in your eye when you blink. Sometimes, the eyelashes may fall out.

Signs and tests

An examination of the eyelids during an eye examination is usually enough to diagnose blepharitis.

Treatment

Careful daily cleansing of the edges of the eyelids helps remove the skin oils that cause the bacteria to overgrow. Your health care provider might recommend using baby shampoo or special cleansers. Antibiotic ointments may also be helpful.

Expectations (prognosis)

The likely outcome is good with treatment. Continued attention to lid cleanliness may be required to prevent repeated problems. Continued treatment will typically make the eyes less red and more comfortable.

Complications

  • Styes
  • Chalazia
  • Injury to the eye tissue (corneal ulcer) from irritation
  • Inflammation of the surface of the eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Loss of eyelashes
  • Scarring of the eyelids

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms worsen or do not improve after careful cleansing of the eyelids for several days.

Prevention

Cleaning eyelids carefully will help prevent blepharitis. If a specific skin condition is present, it should be treated.

References

Ganatra JB, Goldstein MH. Blepharitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 4.4.


Review Date: 8/3/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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