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Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a condition where the tips of the eyelids become inflamed. It can be a chronic condition, often caused by either Staphylococcus aureus bacteria or blocked glands in the eyelids.

  1. Causes inflammation of the eyelids
  2. Symptoms include soreness and crusty eyelashes
  3. Treated with a cleaning regime and sometimes antibiotics

If you think you may have symptoms of blepharitis, a healthcare professional can give you advice on how to treat it. Our online video consultation service enables you to speak to a doctor about blepharitis at your own convenience.

Blepharitis
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Description

Blepharitis is a condition characterised by inflammation along the edges of the eyelids, causing them to redden and make the eyes itch and burn. It can either be anterior (affecting the front of the eyelids near the eyelashes) or posterior (affecting the back of the eyelids near the meibomian glands, which secrete a substance that stops tear film from evaporating).

The condition can be caused by a number of factors. Staphylococcal blepharitis is where bacteria which normally lives harmlessly on our skin multiplies and leads to an infection. Seborrhoeic blepharitis is where the eyelids become too oily and create debris similar to dandruff on the eyelids. Meibomian blepharitis occurs when the meibomian glands malfunction and become blocked, which makes the eyes dryer than usual, and results in inflammation and irritation.

Blepharitis is a common condition. According to NICE, it is thought to account for five in 100 ophthalmology cases seen in primary care. It's more common in older adults, however it can occur at any age. Blepharitis is a frustrating condition to have as it is chronic and can recur many times. However, it shouldn’t have an effect on someone's vision, provided that treatment methods are followed correctly.

Complications from blepharitis can affect both the eyelids and the eyes. With the eyelids, blepharitis can lead to the formation of external styes and meibomian cysts, as well as scarring and thickening of the eyelid in severe cases. In terms of the eyes, blepharitis can often lead to an intolerance of contact lenses, conjunctivitis and keratitis. In rare cases, blepharitis can also lead to dry eye syndrome, which will require a prescription of lubrication.

If you think that you may have blepharitis, you can book an appointment at a convenient time for you with one of our UK doctors, through our private online video consultation service. They can talk you through how to manage your symptoms and provide advice on whether you will require treatment, should there be an infection associated with your condition.

Page last reviewed:  24/02/2020
Diagnosis and treatment

How is blepharitis diagnosed?

A doctor will usually make a blepharitis diagnosis based on symptoms. The most obvious characteristics are crusty, sore and itchy eyelids (which might be particularly itchy in the morning), occurring intermittently over a long period of time. 

Will I need tests?

In most cases a doctor will be able to diagnose blepharitis from a visual examination. However, they may want to analyse a sample of the crust on the eyelid for bacteria, or for an indication of an allergy.

What will a doctor normally advise?

Good eye hygiene is important in the treatment of blepharitis. A doctor may suggest a warm compress (gently pressing a warm damp cloth against the eyelids for five minutes) and using a cotton bud and mild cleanser to clear the crust away from the eye. Massaging the eyelids can also help to get oil out of blocked glands. 

What treatments are there for blepharitis?

If symptoms are severe, and a doctor thinks that a bacterial infection is the cause, they may prescribe a topical antibiotic.

Page last reviewed:  24/02/2020
Questions and Answers

How is blepharitis treated?

In many cases, applying a warm compress to the eyelid, carefully washing the affected area with a mild cleaner, and massaging the eyelid can help. If these techniques alone do not work and symptoms are severe, a doctor may prescribe a topical antibiotic.

What treatments are there?

If a doctor suspects that antibiotics would be beneficial, they may suggest this in the form of an eye drop or ointment. Where these are ineffective, oral antibiotics may be considered.

Can I consult a doctor about blepharitis online?

Yes. If you are concerned about blepharitis or think you could have symptoms, you can speak to one of our UK doctors through our online video consultation service. They will be able to give you advice on how to manage the condition and what the treatment options are. Book an appointment at a time that's best for you. 

Page last reviewed:  24/02/2020

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