Blepharitis is a non-contagious eye condition that causes the edges of your eyelid to become red and inflamed. Blepharitis is a common condition that affects one in three people in the UK. It can affect people of any age, although it's more likely to affect you if you’re over 50.
There are two types of blepharitis.
Blepharitis is a chronic condition that can reoccur; however, treatment can control your symptoms and prevent complications. A chronic illness is one that lasts a long time, sometimes for the rest of your life. When describing an illness, the term ‘chronic’ refers to how long a person has it, not to how serious a condition is.
The symptoms of blepharitis often come and go, getting better or worse over a long period of time. Blepharitis usually affects both eyes and you may find your symptoms are worse in the morning. Your symptoms may include:
These symptoms may be caused by problems other than blepharitis. If you have any of these symptoms, see your GP for advice.
Blepharitis can lead to other problems in and around your eye. Some of the main complications are listed below.
Anterior blepharitis affects the outside of your eyelid and can be caused by an infection, a skin condition or an allergy. The main causes are listed below.
Posterior blepharitis affects the inside of your eyelid and is usually caused by a problem with the meibomian glands behind your eyelashes. These glands make substances that help tears to spread across your eye, keeping it moist. The substances that your meibomian glands produce can change or the glands can get blocked. This means that tears don't spread evenly across your eye, which can cause them to feel gritty and sore. You're more likely to have this condition if you have skin conditions such as rosacea.
Your GP will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He or she will probably be able to diagnose blepharitis from your symptoms and a physical examination. Your GP may refer you to an eye specialist if your condition is severe.
Blepharitis can't be cured, but your symptoms can be controlled. This means that you will probably need to have long-term treatment.
It's important to keep your eyelids clean. This will keep them free from flakes of skin and reduce the risk of an infection.
Try putting a warm compress over your eyelids for five to 10 minutes. Use a cloth soaked in warm water to make the compress. The water you use shouldn't be boiling – the compress should feel comfortable on your skin. This will help to loosen any crusting or flakes of skin.
You can clean your eyelid by using a small amount of baby shampoo diluted in water. Apply it with a cotton bud along the edge of your eyelid and rinse with clean water.
You should clean your eyelids and use a hot compress twice a day until your symptoms have gone. You can then do this routine once a day to prevent symptoms coming back.
If you have posterior blepharitis, you can massage the edge of your eyelid by gently rolling your finger in a circular motion around it. You should do this for about a minute. The massage will help to remove any blockages and release trapped fluids. Try to not wear eye make-up because this could make your condition worse or stop it getting better. If you wear contact lenses, you may be more comfortable wearing glasses until your symptoms ease.
If your blepharitis is severe or keeping your eyelid clean hasn’t helped, your GP may prescribe an antibiotic ointment. If an antibiotic ointment doesn't work, your GP may prescribe antibiotic tablets although this is uncommon. If you do need to take antibiotic tablets, you will have to take them for between six and 12 weeks.
Blepharitis can cause your eyes to feel very dry (dry eye syndrome).You can treat this using tear replacement eye drops. Your GP can prescribe eye drops or you can buy them from a pharmacy.
Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
See our video about blepharitis:
If you have blepharitis, you may find it difficult to wear your contact lenses.
Blepharitis can make your eyes feel very sore and itchy. This often makes it difficult to wear contact lenses. Many people find they can't tolerate contact lenses when they have symptoms.
Treatments for blepharitis include eye ointments or artificial tear drops. If you use an eye ointment that contains paraffin, you should wear glasses instead of contact lenses.
If you wear soft contact lenses, don't use artificial tears that contain preservatives because these will cause irritation. Most eye drops are available without preservatives. Speak to your GP for more information.
Keeping your eyes clean and clear of any crusting or stickiness will help control the symptoms of blepharitis.
Blepharitis is a condition that can’t be cured permanently and may flare up from time to time. In order to keep the condition well controlled and to reduce your symptoms it's important you keep the skin on your eyelids clean. This means good hygiene at all times, even when you don't have any symptoms of blepharitis. Good eye hygiene means keeping your eyelids and lashes clean and clear of any crusting or stickiness. Clean your eyelids every day using a cotton bud soaked in warm water and diluted baby shampoo. See our treatment section for more information.
If your symptoms keep coming back despite taking these steps, you should see your GP. He or she may suggest a different treatment or refer you to a specialist.
Dry eye syndrome can be treated using self-help measures, such as good eye hygiene and not smoking. Your GP may also prescribe eye drops.
Dry eye syndrome is when you don't have enough tears to keep your eyes moist, or the quality of your tears isn’t good enough to keep your eyes evenly wet. It’s usually caused by another condition, such as blepharitis.
There are a number of self-help measures that may help to ease the symptoms. Some of the main ones are listed below.
If these self-help measures don't work, see your GP for advice. He or she may prescribe eye drops or ointments to keep your eyes moist.