Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelid. It is a very common eye disease that affects the edge of the eyelids and eyelash hair follicles. There are three main types of blepharitis:
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The primary types of blepharitis are caused by either a skin condition or a bacterial infection. Blepharitis often occurs along with seborrheic dermatitis and acne rosacea.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for blepharitis include:
Symptoms depend on the cause of the blepharitis. They are usually worse in the morning and involve both eyes.
Symptoms may include:
The doctor will take your temperature, ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Initially you may not have any special tests. If the inflammation looks unusual for blepharitis or fails to respond to treatment, the doctor may do a culture by passing a swab across the edge of the lid. The swab is sent to a lab to see if bacteria grow, and, if so, what kind. Your ophthalmologist may also decide to perform a biopsy by removing a tiny piece of the eyelid margin for microscopic examination to be certain that there is no sign of cancer (rarely, some cancers can mimic chronic blepharitis).
Blepharitis is a chronic condition that often requires long-term management. Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. Your doctor may advise you not to wear contact lenses until the blepharitis has resolved.
In mild cases, careful, daily eyelid hygiene may bring the inflammation under control:
If an infection is causing the blepharitis, you will be given antibiotic eye ointment. If your doctor advises, wash your eyelids as described above and apply the ointment with a cotton-tipped applicator. For a mild case, you may only need ointment at bedtime. If the infection is more severe, you may need to apply the ointment up to four times daily. Once resolved, your doctor may advise you to apply the ointment nightly to prevent another episode. If blepharitis returns after topical treatment, you may be given oral antibiotics, though this is rarely necessary. If oral antibiotics are necessary, they will need to be taken for an extended period, up to six weeks.
If you are diagnosed with blepharitis, follow your doctor's instructions .
American Academy of Family Physicians
The American Optometric Association
Canadian Family Physician
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.aao.org .
Carter SR. Eyelid disorders: Diagnosis and Management. American Family Physician website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/1998/0601/p2695.html . Published June 1998. Accessed June 30, 2009.
Cecil RL, Goldman L, Bennett J. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2000.
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Last reviewed March 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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