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Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids and is a common condition. It may be severely irritating and uncomfortable but it is generally not a sight threatening problem. It is caused by bacteria on the rim of the eyelid causing an inflammation of the area. The bacteria to blame are normal skin bacteria and have not been picked up from another sufferer. It is not known why certain individuals suffer from the condition more than others but there may be various factors.

The symptoms tend to include dryness and grittiness of the eyes although occasionally the eyes may actually water more than usual. The lids and the eyes themselves may be red and there may be crusts on the lids. There may be associated styes and cysts. Very occasionally the inflammation of the eyelids may be so severe that the front surface of the eyeball becomes inflamed causing quite severe pain.


Cleaning the eyelids is the mainstay of treatment

  • Add teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda or 1 drop of baby shampoo to a cup of cooled boiled water.
  • Dip a cotton bud into the solution and firmly scrub the rims of the eyelids to remove any crusts and debris.
  • Do not clean the inner surface of the eyelids (this would be painful)
  • Although cleaning the lower lid is easier, if you can clean the rim of the upper lid it would be beneficial.
  • If you find the procedure difficult, another person can clean the lids for you.
  • Clean the lids twice a day until your symptoms have improved (usually two or three weeks)
  • If your condition has improved, clean the lids occasionally to keep your symptoms at bay.
  • The cleaning will have the added effect of massaging some of the glands in the eyelid and will help to keep the mouths of the glands open.

Warm compresses

These will help to encourage the oily glands in your eyelids to secrete their oils and help to prevent plugging of the glands

Soak a flannel hot water (such that it can be tolerated on your skin)

Close your eyes gently and apply the flannel to your eyelids

Leave for a few minutes and repeat the procedure for both sides

Other treatments

Your doctor may prescribe lubricants for the eyes if they are dry. You may also be prescribed antibiotic or steroid ointment to help settle the inflammation. In severe cases or those which do not respond to the initial measures, you may be advised to take an extended course of antibiotic tablets for a few months.

If you have any questions regarding this information, please ask your eye doctor.


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