Blepharitis is the medical term for inflammation of the eyelid. It causes redness, irritation, itchy eyelids and the formation of scales on eyelashes.
Although uncomfortable, blepharitis is not contagious and does not usually cause any serious damage to the eye. It can be treated but not cured; if untreated it can sometimes lead to eyelid entropion from scarring.
Types of blepharitis
There are two types of blepharitis:
- Anterior blepharitis occurs at the outside front edge of the eyelid where the eyelashes are rooted
- Posterior blepharitis affects the inner edge of the eyelid that is in contact with the eyeball
Meibomitis is an inflammation of the meibomian glands and is very closely related to blepharitis.
The oily glands openings on the lid margins become blocked with inspicated meibomian secretions. The oil produced by the meibomian glands is thicker and has a milky appearance, rather than a clear oil.
Meibomitis is also known as meibomian gland dysfunction or MGD.
Blepharitis may cause ‘grittiness’ and a burning sensation in the eyes, excessive tearing, irritation, red-rimmed and swollen eyelids, dry eyes, and crusting around the eyelash roots. A severe blepharitis can be associated with conjunctivits, known as a blepharoconjunctivitis.
Meibomitis plugging reduces the amount of good quality oil and can make the tears sting and evaporate quickly. If the meibomitis is acute, the eyelids can be red, thickened and tender. Pressing on the eyelids can demonstrate the thickened, milky oil which has been likened to squeezing toothpaste.
In many cases, good eyelid hygiene and regular cleaning can control blepharitis. In cases where a bacterial infection is the cause, various antibiotics or other medication may be prescribed alongside good eyelid hygiene.
Anterior blepharitis is commonly caused by bacteria or dandruff from the scalp and eyebrows. Less commonly it may be related to allergies or a low grade infection.
Posterior blepharitis may be caused by abnormal oil production from the eyelid glands. It can also develop as a result of other skin conditions such as acne rosacea.
Meibomitis is worse in patients with ocular acne rosacea.