What is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a common condition where eyelids become irritated, red and swollen. Crusting and dandruff-like scales along the lash line and eyelid edge are also regular features.

Blepharitis results from a build-up of oil, particles and/or microbes at the base of the eyelashes. Why these factors trigger this distinctive condition is not well understood.

If you’re diagnosed with blepharitis, you will also learn that it can be caused by demodex mites. While they are transparent and only a fraction the width of a hair, it is still usually an unpleasant surprise to find out that these tiny animals live in your oil glands and eyelash follicles.

However, more or less everyone has a demodex population; they are only an issue among the few people who have an adverse reaction to their presence.

Whatever the cause, blepharitis is usually an ongoing condition. This means that while treatment is necessary and effective, a permanent cure is unlikely. Blepharitis is usually mild, but should not be ‘put up with’ as it is a precursor to more serious conditions.

Blepharitis diagram

How common is Blepharitis?

Affecting around one-third to one-half of all people, blepharitis can affect anyone at any age. The most common kind is its ongoing adult-onset form.

Blepharitis is not a sign of poor personal hygiene, but its effects tend to be aggravated by improper removal of cosmetics, such as eyeliner or mascara.

What are the symptoms?

Blepharitis symptoms include:

  • redness and swelling of the eyelid or eye itself
  • dry eyes
  • crusting along the eyelash
  • a mild burning sensation
  • feeling like something is in your eye.
Blepharitis symptoms

Treatment options for Blepharitis

There is no guaranteed cure for blepharitis, but controlling and minimising the symptoms  often works well.

At home the blepharitis buildups can be first softened them with a very warm (but not hot) compress and then gently scrubbed off using special cleaning pads or a soft, clean cloth and diluted baby shampoo.

At your eye specialist, more advanced techniques include physical removal of the clogs and build-ups, thermal treatments and intense light pulses. Post-treatment eye drops may also be prescribed.