Blepharitis causes the rim of the eyelids to become swollen, red and itchy.

What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is inflammation of the rims of the eyelids, which causes them to become red and swollen. It is a common condition which can develop at any age but is more common in young children and people over 50. Most people experience repeated episodes followed by periods with no symptoms. It is not possible to catch blepharitis from someone else who has it. 

What causes blepharitis?

There is no direct cause of blepharitis but it is more common in people who have skin conditions such as eczema and acne, and in those with allergic diseases like asthma. Eyelids contain tiny glands that make an oil which keeps the eyes moist as part of the tear film. In blepharitis, these glands become blocked, which causes irritated eyelids and dry, sore eyes. It is thought that in some people, blepharitis is partly caused by sensitivity to the bacteria (staphylococcus) which normally live on the skin.

What are the symptoms of blepharitis?

Many people with the condition experience the symptoms of blepharitis in repeated episodes, with the symptoms coming and going. Blepharitis symptoms can include:

  • Soreness and swelling of the eyelids
  • A stinging, burning or gritty sensation in the eyes
  • Itchy eyes and eyelids
  • Red eyes and eyelids
  • Crustiness and flakiness of the skin around the eyelash root
  • Sticking of the eyelids when waking up

Blepharitis may also cause sensitivity to light, increased frequency of blinking and may lead to the development of chalazions on the eyelid. Those who experience blepharitis may also experience a dry eye condition where not enough tears are produced.

Although not usually serious, blepharitis can be uncomfortable, so wearing contact lenses and applying eye makeup should be avoided when you have symptoms. It’s important to seek treatment for blepharitis as soon as possible to alleviate the symptoms and reduce the risk of other conditions developing.

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