What is blepharitis?
Blepharitis is a chronic long term inflammatory condition affecting the eyelids and the skin surrounding the eyes causing a lot of discomfort. There are two types of blepharitis: anterior blepharitis, which affects the outer edge of the eyelids where the eyelashes are found, and posterior blepharitis, which affects the inner edge of the eyelids where the eyelid comes into contact with the eyeball.
The symptoms of blepharitis vary with the severity of the condition and include:
- Red rimmed eyes
- Sore, burning and gritty eyes
- Foreign body sensation as though there is something in the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Watery eyes
- Greasy eye lid appearance
- Abnormal eyelash growth
- Bloodshot eyes
Sufferers of blepharitis are also more prone to eye infections particularly styes.
What causes blepharitis?
There are many causal factors for blepharitis but the most common one is a staphylococcus infection. This bacterium species invades the follicle of the eyelash or the glands around the eyelids. The eyelid tissues may be sensitive to the toxins secreted by these bacteria resulting in a thick, sticky discharge which may cause the eyelids to stick overnight.
Allergies are another causal factor for blepharitis. When allergies are involved, the around the eyes looks darker than normal giving the appearance of dark under eye circles.
Poor nutrition could also be a contributory factor since this can lead to a compromised immune system resulting in the ability of the staphylococci bacteria to invade the eye region.
Poor eye hygiene can be a causal or contributory factor to blepharitis. Care should be taken by women who use mascara regularly to either replace this if an infection occurs. Bacteria from the eyelids can be transferred to the mascara and can contribute to recurrent infections.
How can you treat blepharitis?
The symptoms of blepharitis will not improve unless you follow a rigorous treatment regimen. Blepharitis requires ongoing treatment even after the symptoms have improved otherwise one can run the risk of developing it again. Not treating blepharitis in the correct manner can result in thickened eyelid margins due to the inflammation and scarring of the cornea.
The most common approach to treating blepharitis is the use of baby shampoo. This has, however, been proven to be less effective than using other cleansers due to the fact that it can leave a residue behind on the eyelid, which can cause irritation.
It is therefore essential to have a good gentle cleanser for use around the delicate eye tissues. Avoid harsh cleansers since they will only disturb and irritate the eyes further causing more soreness and damage to the skin around the eyelid.
There are two treatment methods that have proven to be of great benefit to sufferers of blepharitis:
Using heat and massaging around the eyelids helps to soften and free any blockages. Whilst you can use a warm compress, the most convenient product, which has also been registered as a Class 1 Medical Device, is The Eye Doctor Hot Eye Compress. Registered for helping to alleviate Dry Eye Syndrome as well as for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, which is closely linked to blepharitis, this mask is very easy to use and provides relief for many sufferers. Simply place the mask in a microwave and once warm place onto both eyes. The Eye Doctor contains a unique mixture of different shapes and sizes of natural grains for maximum contact and crucially has a removable washable cover to prevent recurrent infections.
As mentioned above eyelid hygiene is paramount and whilst many GP’s recommend diluted baby shampoo to cleanse the eyelids, I prefer the use of Ocusoft Lid Scrub Plus. These are pre-moistened wipes with a totally non-irritating formula that you gently scrub your eyelids with and contain antibacterial agents together with a moisturising element to control and reduce the symptoms of blepharitis with regular use. Also available is Ocusoft Lid Scrub Plus Foam Cleanser which can be gently massaged onto the eyelids using side to side strokes with the fingertips. For severe blepharitis, use OcuSoft Oust Demodex wipes or foam cleanser. For the symptoms of dry, gritty eyes, I recommend Hycosan Extra Eye Drops to soothe and comfort the eyes.
Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes during the day since this will only make the symptoms of blepharitis worse.
Blepharitis requires continuous care since it is a long term condition. Keep up the cleansing routine otherwise there is a likelihood that the symptoms will return if used on a short term basis.