Blepharitis

What is it?

Blepharitis is an inflammation (redness and swelling) of the eyelids. Your eyelids, eyelashes, eyelid oil glands, or whites of the eyes may be affected by this problem. Blepharitis may be a long-term problem that is difficult to treat. Blepharitis may come back again after treatment.

What causes blepharitis?

  • Infection on your eyelids that is caused by bacteria (a germ).

  • Oil gland problems. The oil glands at the edge of your eyelids may become easily clogged.

  • Seborrheic dermatitis of the face and scalp. This is a problem with your skin which causes redness, scaly skin, and itching. When it is on your scalp, it is sometimes called scalp dandruff.

  • Acne rosacea. This is a type of acne (pimple or pustule) problem. With acne rosacea, the skin around each acne pustule is bright red.

What are the signs and symptoms of blepharitis?

You may have one or more of the following:

  • Burning, itching, and soreness of the eyes and eyelids.

  • Clear, yellow, or green-colored fluid coming from the eyelids. This fluid may form crusts and cause the eyelids to stick together, especially in the morning.

  • Dry eyes.

  • Irritated eyes. Bright light may bother your eyes. Your eyes may be watery (too many tears). Your eyes may feel gritty or like something is in them.

  • Losing some of your eyelashes.

  • Pus-filled sores may form where your eyelashes come out of your eyelid. They may turn into ulcers (hollow sores).

  • Redness, warmth, or swollen eyelid edges.

  • Stye (infection in or underneath the eyelid) or chalazion. A chalazion is a large, clogged oil gland on the eyelid. If it becomes infected, it can be red and painful.

How is blepharitis diagnosed?

Your caregiver will do an eye exam. Your caregiver may scrape some pus from your eyelid and send it to the lab for tests. This can help caregivers learn which type of germ may be causing the infection.

How can I take care of my eyes?

Your treatment will depend upon the cause of the blepharitis. Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after caring for your eyes. Instructions to care for your eyelids are as follows:

  • Apply warm compresses. Put a clean, warm washcloth (compress) on each eye for five or ten minutes, two or three times every day. Rewarm the washcloths when they get cold. Compresses help to loosen eyelash crusts, melt oil gland plugs, and decrease itching and burning.

  • Massage your eyelids. Ask your caregiver if you should massage your eyelids. Massaging may help loosen the oil gland plugs and help decrease inflammation. After you have finished applying a compress, use it to gently massage your eyelid edges. Gently massage in small circles for at least five seconds, especially on your lower eyelids.

  • Gently wash your eyelids. Wash your eyelid after you take the compress off of your eye. Make a mixture of two to three drops baby shampoo in one-half cup warm water. Dip a cotton swab or clean washcloth in this mixture. Close your eye. Pull your eyelid slightly forward, and clean your eyelid and eyelashes. Rinse your eyelid well with clean, warm water.

  • Use antibiotics if ordered by your caregiver. Your caregiver may give you antibiotic medicine if you have an infection in your eyelids. If you need to use antibiotic ointment, put it on your eyelids as instructed by your caregiver. Gently rub the ointment into the eyelashes and eyelids with a clean finger or cotton tip swab. If you need to use antibiotic eye drops, avoid touching your eyes, hands, or anything else with the tip of the dropper. Your ointment or eye drops may also have steroids in them. Steroids help to decrease eyelid inflammation.

  • Get treatment for your skin problems. If you have acne rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis on your face or scalp, get treatment from caregivers. Get treatment for these problems at the same time that you get treatment for your blepharitis.

How can I help to prevent blepharitis?

  • Continue to gently wash your eyelids every day. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Dry your hands with a clean towel. Keep your hands away from your eyes.

  • If you have dandruff (flaky scalp), using shampoo that has selenium sulfide in it may decrease the dandruff. Read the label on the shampoo bottle before you buy it. This shampoo may be bought at a grocery or drug store. Wash your hair, scalp, and eyebrows with this shampoo. It will help control dandruff and may help you control your blepharitis.

  • Do not wear eye makeup or contact lenses until your caregiver says it is OK. Ask your caregiver before using any medicine or makeup near your eyes.

Call your caregiver if you have:

  • Eye pain.

  • Eyesight changes.

  • New signs and symptoms. Medicines used to treat blepharitis may cause side effects.

  • Your signs and symptoms have not gotten better in two weeks.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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