While the name may not be familiar to most patients, Blepharitis is a common eye condition. Its main effect is that it makes the eyelids red, swollen, and itchy. It is also characterized by dry flakes similar to dandruff on the eyelashes. While this condition makes patients feel uncomfortable, it is not contagious. Beyond that, it doesn’t do any damage to the eyes themselves.
While there is no complete cure for Blepharitis, there are measures that can be taken to help reduce negative symptoms. Simply cleaning the eyelids on a regular basis and making sure that they are free of crust is a great way to ward off this condition. Still, many would like more in-depth information regarding their options for treatment and how to proceed when they realize they have it.
What are the symptoms of blepharitis?
Before exploring treatment options, it is first vital that patients be able to properly recognize the signs and symptoms of the condition.
Some common symptoms of Blepharitis include:
- A persistent feeling that something is in the eye
- A burning or stinging sensation in the eyes
- Watery eyes
- Itchiness in and around the eyes
- Increased sensitivity to bright lights
- Redness or swelling in the eyelids or the eyes themselves
- Excessively dense tears characterized by foam and bubbles
- Overly dry eyes
- Excessively crusty eyelashes or eyelids in the morning after waking up
Blepharitis can lead to more serious issues, such as:
- Blurred vision
- Excessive eyelash shedding
- Eyelashes that grow in an unusual fashion
- Swelling in other areas of the eye
Getting a professional diagnosis
While Blepharitis can often be diagnosed simply by recognizing the common symptoms, it is best to refer to a licensed practitioner for an official diagnosis. Optometrists are trained in examining these issues and can perform tests to reach a definitive conclusion. Some of these include:
- Examining the eyes. This simply involves using a magnifying glass to look closely at the eyelids and eyes to detect any abnormalities.
- Swab testing the skin. If a simple examination doesn’t suffice, a swab of oil or crust from the eyes will be taken for further testing. This sample will be carefully analyzed to detect bacteria, fungi, or evidence of an existing allergy.
How to treat Blepharitis
Most cases of Blepharitis can be treated at home by simply performing regular eye washes and wrapping the area with a compress. When these measures aren’t enough, however, the eye doctor may prescribe medications. These may include:
- Medications that combat infections. When applied directly to the eyelids, antibiotics can provide relief from various symptoms by destroying bacterial infections. These medications can be taken in the form of eye drops, creams, or ointments.
Oral antibiotics may also be suggested to patients who don’t see a benefit from topical products.
- Medications that reverse inflammation. Steroid eye drops or ointments are able to reduce inflammation. However, this approach is usually employed in cases where patients don’t respond to the initial method. In some cases, both antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications will be prescribed simultaneously.
- Medications that boost the immune system. Products such as topical cyclosporine (Restasis) are able to provide relief from many of the symptoms associated with Blepharitis by strengthening the immune system.
- Medications to treat potential underlying conditions. While Blepharitis often manifests as an isolated condition, it can also be caused by seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, and other diseases. Treating these will lead to an alleviation of Blepharitis symptoms.
What is the takeaway?
Blepharitis is an unfortunate but totally manageable condition. While patients may be eager to get started on a self-treatment protocol, it is highly recommended that they refer to a credentialed practitioner before taking treatment into their own hands. Optometrists can assess the condition of the patient’s eyes and determine whether they actually have Blepharitis or another condition.