Always on the lookout for new information of a medical or health nature, I love browsing through the pamphlets at the doctor’s surgery, the clinic or, as in the case of blepharitis, the opticians.
Because I have problems with my eyes I am constantly trying to understand how and why these remarkable optical organs work.
What is Blepharitis?
Following a common theme, a claim I make repeatedly, I do not wish to be thought of as hypochondriac, but I have experienced this eye condition before, at the time it was referred to as dry eye, or I think I called it dry eye syndrome. It was only a very brief article but, it shows that I have, genuinely, experienced this before.
Blepharitis is an inflammation of your eyelids. It can make eyelids and eyelashes red and crusty and make your eyes feel irritated or itchy. It can also lead to burning, soreness or stinging in your eyes. In sever cases, your lashes may fall out, and you can develop small ulcers or styes as well. You may find your eyelids become puffy. The symptoms tend to be worse in the morning and when you wake up you may find your lids are stuck together.
The condition can be uncomfortable, but rarely causes serious eye damage.
Blepharitis is a chronic (long-term) condition. This means that once you have had it, it can come back even after it has cleared up. It normally affects both eyes. You can usually treat it by just taking care with your hygiene, but you may need treatment for several months.
Why do I get blepharitis?
There are two types of blepharitis.
- Anterior blepharitis, which affects the outside edge of your eyelids (near your eyelashes). It may be caused by an infection by staphylococcus bacteria. If it is, it is called staphylococcal blepharitis.
- Posterior blepharitis, which is caused when something affects your meibomian glands (which produce part of your tears). It may be called meibomian blepharitis.
Another reason you may get blepharitis is as a complication of seborrhoeic dermatitis, which makes your skin inflamed or flaky. This can involve the scalp (when it is called dandruff), lashes, ears and eyebrows. Seborrhoeic dermatitis can cause both anterior and posterior blepharitis.
Who is at risk?
Blepharitis is more common in people over the age of 50, but it can develop at any age. As you get older, the glands in your eyelids that secrete part of your tears become blocked more easily. Your tears contain fewer lubricants and your eyes can feel gritty and dry, so suborrhoeic blepharitis and meibomian blepharitis tend to happen more in older people.
Staphylococcal blepharitis happens in younger people.
How will I know I have an infection?
Your optometrist, doctor or eye specialist can spot signs of blepharitis by looking closely at your eyelids.
A doctor can take a swab which they can send away to be checked to see if there is a staphylococcus infection.
How should I look after my eyes if I have this dryness?
Blepharitis is a condition that tends to come back even after treatment. It is possible to make your eyes more comfortable, but blepharitis often cannot be totally cured.
If you have this type of inflammation, avoid eye make-up.
There are treatments which can help you reduce the effects of blepharitis. You may need the treatment for several months.
- Warm compresses. Warm compresses work by warming the material that blocks the glands and loosening the crusts on the eyelid. This makes them easier to remove. You can use a flannel or something similar as a warm compress, or you can buy special packs from your optometrist which you can heat up in the microwave. Soak the flannel (it is best to use a seperate flannel for each eye) in hot, not boiling water, and place the flannels on the shut eyelids for five minutes, rocking gently with the heel of the hands. This will loosen the crusts. You can then use lid scrubs (see below).
- Lid Scrubs. Make up a solution of baby shampoo (one part baby shampoo to 10 parts water) or bicarbonate of soda (one teaspoons dissolved in a cup of water) using slightly cooled boiling water. After using the warm compresses. use your (clean) finger to pull your lower eyelid slightly away from the eye and clean the lower lid edge with a cotton wool bud, dampened in the solution you have made. You should aim for the base of the eyelashes. You can also do this with the upper lid, but it may be more tricky. Repeat this morning and evening for two weeks. Then repeat only in the morning for two weeks, then two or three times each week to prevent the problem from coming back.
- Lubricants. Using an ointment on the edges of your eyelids after cleaning them can help your eyes feel more comfortable. You might find it easier to put the ointment inside your lower lid. If you have dry eyes, you can use gel or drops to lubricate them. Ask your oprometrist to recommend the best type to suit your eye problem.
- Oral Antibiotics. If other treatments don’t work, you may be prescribed antibiotics to be taken by mouth for three months, Antibiotic tablets do not suit everyone, so talk about this to someone who knows your medical history.
For more information, please talk to your local optometrist.
This leaflet was produced by The College of Optometrists. We are the professional, scientific and examining body for optometry in the UK.
Please visit www.lookafteryoureyes.org for more information.
This information should not replace advice that your optometrist or relevant health professional would give you.
Over to you
I usually finish a post with a claim that I have spent many hours compiling the information, but on this occasion that would be a little less than the truth. Yes I have spent a few hours typing this post but, the information came from a leaflet I picked up in the optician’s office.
However, I would still like to hear from you, if you have had experience with dry eye or blepharitis. I was surprised to find out how many people, I know, have had this problem and never mentioned it.