What is Blepharitis?
When the eyelids can become inflamed, the problem in most cases is a chronic eye disease called Blepharitis. Similar in nature to the skin condition called eczema, in case of Blepharitis, the eyelids become red, scaly and irritated.
There are two basic types of Blepharitis: Seborrheic Blepharitis and Staph Blepharitis. The most notable symptom of either type is inflammation on and around the eyelids that can be accompanied by irritation and painful itching. In some cases, tiny ulcers develop along the eyelid margins which are the areas that touch one another once the eyelid closes.
Symptoms of Seborrheic Blepharitis
Individuals suffering from Seborrheic Blepharitis generally also suffer from skin conditions that affect other parts of the body including the scalp, chest and back.
With Seborrheic Blepharitis, there is a problem with the tear film that the body produces to help protect and lubricate the eyes. It can be either a problem with the quality or the quantity but regardless, the resulting tear film causes greasy scales to form at the base of the eyelashes. These scales flake off easily and cause irritation. When insufficient quantities of tear film are produced, usually because the glands are blocked, the eye does not get lubricated properly. The dry spots cause the eyes to feel gritty.
Symptoms of Staph Blepharitis
Staph Blepharitis is actually a childhood eye disease that is caused by a bacterial infection. This condition generally does not go away. Its symptoms include the development and accumulation of crusty material at the base of the eyelashes. The crust often affects a person’s ability to open their eyes after sleep. Sometimes, after the crusty matter is removed, tiny ulcers remain that begin to bleed or otherwise ooze. Sties can develop, as can red eye, and the eyelashes can become weak and break. If the infection is not treated properly, over time, the cornea can become scarred.
Who is at risk?
Both adults and children can develop Blepharitis however it is more prevalent in adults. There is an increased risk in children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome.
As with other diseases of the eye, Blepharitis is typically diagnosed during a routine eye exam. Since one cause of this condition is poor hygiene, the most effective treatment for Blepharitis involves keeping the eyelid margin area super clean. To prevent irritation from excessive cleaning, it is often recommended that this area be cleaned with a shampoo that is formulated for babies. A washcloth can also be used to help remove the scaly deposits.
A hot pack or warm compress applied to the affected areas is effective at reducing pain and swelling. When ulcers are present, a hot pack can also help speed the healing process.
When the condition is caused by dry eyes, lubricants are effective treatments. If necessary, antibiotic ointments and creams can be applied to affected areas. Some people are prescribed steroids to help reduce the inflammation however their use should only be a short-term treatment option.