Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelid. It is a very common eye disease that affects the edge of the eyelids and eyelash hair follicles. There are three main types of blepharitis:
The primary types of blepharitis are caused by either a skin condition or a bacterial infection. Blepharitis often occurs along with seborrheic dermatitis and acne rosacea.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for blepharitis include:
Symptoms depend on the cause of the blepharitis. They are usually worse in the morning and involve both eyes.
Symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Initially you may not have any special tests. If the inflammation looks unusual for blepharitis or fails to respond to treatment, the doctor may do a culture by passing a swab across the edge of the lid. The swab is sent to a lab to see if bacteria grow, and, if so, what kind. Your ophthalmologist may also decide to perform a biopsy by removing a tiny piece of the eyelid margin for microscopic examination to be certain that there is no sign of cancer (rarely, some cancers can mimic chronic blepharitis).
Blepharitis is a chronic condition that often requires long-term management. Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. Your doctor may advise you not to wear contact lenses until the blepharitis has resolved.
In mild cases, careful, daily eyelid hygiene may bring the inflammation under control:
If an infection is causing the blepharitis, you will be given antibiotic eye ointment.
Topical corticosteroids may be needed for severe inflammation and complications.
Oral antibiotics are used for more serious infections.
If you are diagnosed with blepharitis, follow your doctor's instructions.
If you are susceptible to blepharitis, conscientious eyelid hygiene can help prevent a recurrence:
American Academy of Family Physicians
The American Optometric Association
Canadian Family Physician
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
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Last reviewed March 2013 by Michael Woods, MD