What causes blepharitis and its treatment

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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Waking up with a swollen or puffy eyelid can be troublesome and uncomfortable. However, with the help of these treatments, the problem can be minimised.

If either your upper or lower eyelid, or both eyelids become enlarged, the condition is referred to as eyelid inflammation or eyelid swelling. It is scientifically known as blepharitis. This condition is a consequence of the accumulation of excess fluid or eye tissue inflammation. When the body is fighting an infection or suffering from an injury or allergy, swollen eyelids can occur.

It is important to note that the condition makes your eyelids red, itchy, and a little swollen. You might also notice:

  • The sensation that something is in your eye
  • Stinging of eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision
  • Burning sensation
  • Dry eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Tearing
  • Watery eyes
  • Crusty eyelashes, when you wake up in the morning
  • Dandruff-like flakes on your eyelashes and eyelid margins

In a nutshell, blepharitis is an uncomfortable condition that usually causes inflamed and itchy eyelids, but it doesn’t permanently damage the eyesight. It is among the most common eye disorders. Although it’s a chronic (ongoing) condition, you may be able to manage most cases yourself, with the advice of an eye care professional. 

It is also commonly called lid margin disease, because it affects only the edges of your eyelids. It usually affects both eyes but in some cases it can only affect one eye.

How common is blepharitis?

Eyelid margin disease can begin during childhood and last throughout life — or it can begin during adulthood. However, certain forms, such as staphylococcal blepharitis, affect mainly women (80% of cases). A recent survey that had ophthalmologists and optometrists as participants reported that nearly half of the patients they see show symptoms of blepharitis. So, it’s good to know that it’s very common and the symptoms are manageable.

Dr Arvind Kumar, Consultant – Ophthalmology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad reveals some health complications or conditions that are associated with blepharitis:

1. Stye

A stye forms when the glands along your eyelids become clogged and infected. 

It is an acute infection caused by bad hygiene, dust and a polluted environment. Hence, hand and ocular hygiene is very important to maintain, says Dr Kumar. 

2. Dry eyes

Decreased oil secretions that are caused by an abnormality with the meibomian glands can affect the amount of oil in your tears and lead to dry eyes. 

swollen eyelid
The swollen eyelid can cause severe irritation. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Allergy

Allergies, including allergic reactions to eye medications, contact lens solutions or eye makeup.

4. Eyelash problem

When left untreated, blepharitis can cause misdirected eyelashes, meaning they grow abnormally, or cause your eyelashes to fall out.

5. Excess tearing

Abnormal oily secretions and other debris shed from the eyelids, such as flaking associated with dandruff, can build up in your tear film — the water, oil and mucus solution that forms tears.

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6. Chalazion

A chalazion is similar to a stye, since it’s also caused by inflammation of the eyelid’s oil glands and it causes a red lump on the eyelid. But chalazion is painless.

Chalazion is a post infection collection of localized abscess, which has to be drained surgically, says Dr Kumar. 

7. Secondary infection

Touching and rubbing the infected area of the eyelid can cause a secondary infection because of the spread of bacteria. 

Currently, doctors have not been able to identify the exact cause of this disorder but most of the time, blepharitis happens because you have too much bacteria on your eyelids at the base of your eyelashes. 

So is there a cure for blepharitis? Well, it depends on the type of blepharitis. However, you can manage this condition with these tips: 

1. Warm compress

Apply warm compresses to your eyes for at least 5 minutes. This should be done once or twice every day. To make a warm compress, you can wet a clean washcloth with hot water, wring it out and place it over your closed eyelids.

Another option that holds warmth longer is to heat a bag of rice or a gel pack in the microwave. Whatever you do, be sure not to make the compress so hot that you burn your skin.

swollen eyelid
Follow these tips to manage the swollen eyelid condition. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Warm compresses will loosen dandruff and crustiness around your eyelashes. It also helps break down oil from nearby oil glands.                                               

2. Maintain hygiene

Eyelid cleaning should be done once or twice a day. So soak a clean washcloth, cotton ball or lint-free pad in baby shampoo diluted with warm water. Gently rub the base of your eyelashes with the shampoo and rinse with warm water. 

3. Cucumber slices

Chill and slice a cucumber, and place the slices over your closed eyelids for ten minutes.

Also, read: What happens when sweat trickles into your eyes during workout?

4. Cold compress can also help

Dip a cotton pad in ice water, and wring it out lightly. Place over your closed eyelids for up to 10 minutes at a time. The cold will help constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling.

5. Remove makeup

You should always remove all the makeup, especially eye makeup, before going to bed at night. This prevents the glands in the eyelids from becoming blocked. Also, switch to mineral-based makeup.

6. Limit salt intake

Cut down on your salt intake. Excess salt in your diet will cause water retention and can manifest as puffiness around your eyes, where the skin is thin and delicate.

swollen eyelid
Moderate your salt consumption to stay fit. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

7. Stay hydrated

Drink enough water. When your body becomes dehydrated, it begins to retain water and can cause the skin around the eyes to swell.

Also, read:Sprayed perfume in your eyes by mistake? Here’s how to react

8. Tea bags

Place cold tea bags on your eyes for 10 minutes. Both black and green tea contain caffeine as well as tannic acid that will help eliminate swelling and water retention.

The bottomline

Your dermatologist may be able to recommend or prescribe a product in severe cases. Try to reach out to your doctor immediately, if the swelling is severe or you do not respond favourably to any of these treatments within several hours. 

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