What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis (from the Greek blépharon) is an inflammatory disease of the eyelids which, when associated with conjunctivitis, is called blepharoconjunctivitis. In this case the inflammation will affect not only the edge of the eyelid but also the conjunctiva. Blepharitis can evolve into chronic blepharitis, showing resistance to treatment and a tendency to relapse, so it is very important to prevent it by following hygienic-behavioral rules. The people most at risk of suffering from chronic blepharitis, characterized by reddening of the eyelids and the presence of dandruff-like deposits on the eyelashes, are the elderly.

Prognosis of the disease

Blepharitis usually lasts a few weeks, but may become a chronic condition. In this case, symptoms may be kept under control, but cannot be permanently eliminated. Maintaining proper hygiene is also very important to prevent frequent recurrence.

Blepharitis symptoms

The most common symptoms of blepharitis occur around the eyelids and are:

  • Burning
  • Hot sensation
  • Itching

This last symptom often causes the person to rub the eyelid: it is very important to avoid touching the inflamed part with the hands, as it favors inflammation and causes, in some cases, micro-injuries in the skin. In case of severe blepharitis it is possible to detect:

  • Swelling
  • Localized pain often aggravated by irregular blinking.
  • Photophobia (intolerance to light).

Blepharitis is an inflammatory disease of the eyelids.

Diagnosis of blepharitis

The diagnosis of blepharitis is based on the symptoms appearing on the eyelids (small white dandruff-like scales, crusts and, in the most severe cases, ulcers) and the symptoms reported by the patient, as well as on the objective test performed by a specialist with a slit lamp.

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What are the causes of blepharitis?

The most common causes of blepharitis are:

  • Altered secretion of the Meibomian gland.
  • Refractive defects such as astigmatism and hyperopia.
  • Skin diseases (e.g., seborrheic eczema)
  • Nutrition-related disorders (digestive difficulties or avitaminosis)
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive blood fat levels
  • Allergic or environmental factors (smoke, dust)
  • Bacteria such as streptococcus and staphylococcus

These factors, in addition to causing blepharitis, can complicate the symptoms.

Can they be prevented?

To prevent blepharitis it is necessary to follow hygienic-behavioral rules: compliance with these rules helps to reduce the risk of infection. Therefore, it is recommended to wash hands thoroughly, especially before touching the eyes. If a family member complains of symptoms related to blepharitis, we recommend that he/she avoids using shared objects such as sheets, clothes or personal products in order not to spread the infection. In addition, it is important to follow a proper diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and lean protein (fish or chicken) and limit intake of sugars or caffeinated beverages.

Treatments for blepharitis

Anti-inflammatory eye drops and antibiotics are generally used to treat blepharitis. For definitive treatment, it is also necessary to check the health of the conjunctiva, as the cornea can be affected by keratitis. In case of infectious blepharitis, it is recommended not to use contact lenses to avoid contamination. Finally, it is recommended that women do not use eye cosmetics for the duration of the treatment.

Which specialist to contact?

The specialist to contact in case of blepharitis is the ophthalmologist.