Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids. It can be uncomfortable and irritating, however, is generally not eyesight threatening.
Blepharitis mainly affects the eyelid margins (edges). The inflammation is caused by bacterial infection of the eyelashes (usually Staphylococcus) and/or blockage of the Meibomian (oil) glands. Blepharitis is not contagious.
Signs and symptoms
- Eyes may feel irritated, gritty, or burning
- Dry or tired eyes
- Sore, inflamed eyelids
- Crusty or sticky eyelids, flakes on eyelashes
Symptoms may come and go but are often persistent. There is no one-off cure and flares will require repeat treatment.
The most important part of treatment is eyelid hygiene. This involves three easy steps:
Heat a face towel with warm tap water. A wheat pack may also be used. Place over both eyes for 5-10 minutes.
The aim of this is to soften the crusts and help to unplug the blocked glands.
Use a little finger or cotton bud to massage the oil from the glands. Massage along the eyelid towards lashes (downwards for top lid, upwards from lower lid). Eyes should be shut. Massage for 30 seconds immediately after warming.
Mix one-part baby shampoo with ten parts warm water. Clean along the upper and lower eyelid margins with a cotton bud doused in the mix.
Care at home
Lid hygiene (as above) should be performed two to three times daily for at least two weeks (or until symptoms settle). Treatment can then be done daily.
Eye irritants (especially eyeshadow and eyeliner) should be stopped during treatment. Blepharitis is a lifelong problem, however, can be managed with a good lid hygiene routine.
Antibiotic ointments may occasionally be indicated for severe infections.
Artificial tears (drops or gel) may also help relieve symptoms.
Complications can include:
- Dry eyes – people with blepharitis often suffer from dry eyes, as the oil glands are required to stop the tear film from drying out
- Stye – painful infection swelling (abscess) of an eyelash follicle
- Chalazion – painless round nodule caused by a blocked and inflamed Meibomian gland. May become acutely infected and painful.
When to see a doctor:
If your child experiences any eye pain, vision loss or discharge, book in to see your GP immediately.
Ophthalmology Outpatients (2d)
Level 2, Queensland Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t 07 3063 2361 | 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
In an emergency, always call 000.
If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.