Blepharitis: how to recognize and treat this inflammation of the eyelid?

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an eye disease that corresponds to an inflammation of the eyelid. Symptoms and treatments.

Blepharitis

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What is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is an eye disease that corresponds to an inflammation of the eyelid. What exactly happens? The cause of blepharitis is an abnormal thickening of the lipid phase of the tears,” explains Prof. Laurent Kodjikian, ophthalmologist.

Specifically, tears become more viscous, causing irritation to the glands that produce them.

“This phenomenon occurs more easily with age: in women, blepharitis is more frequent around the menopause, around the age of 50-55.

In addition, blepharitis can also be caused by a bacterial infection (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus) or a parasite (e.g., Demodex folliculorum, which is a mite of the Demodicidae family and lives preferentially in the hair, hair and eyelashes).

“Seasonal allergies also cause symptoms that may resemble blepharitis, but are accompanied by rhinitis,” the ophthalmologist adds.

There are several types of blepharitis. Anterior blepharitis is mainly of bacterial or parasitic origin: it is usually acute.

Mixed blepharitis combines a bacterial or parasitic infection with an accumulation of oily substances behind the eyelid. Posterior blepharitis is only caused by the accumulation of oily and viscous substances: it can become chronic.

Blepharitis: What are the symptoms?

As we said, blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid. So we can observe inflammatory symptoms, that is:

  • Eyes that sting or burn,
  • Red and swollen eyelids,
  • Frequent blinking,
  • If the blepharitis is of infectious or parasitic origin: scabs at the base of the eyelashes,
  • A sensation of “sand” (or foreign body) in the eye…

“Patients have the impression that their eyes are dry when they suffer from blepharitis: the tears are, in fact, of lower quality because they are more greasy, so they evaporate more quickly and do not sufficiently hydrate the eye,” explains Prof. Laurent Kodjikian.

The stye (which manifests itself through a small red and very painful pimple at the base of the eyelashes) and the chalazion (which gives rise to a small hard and painful ball under the eyelid skin) are complications of blepharitis.

And also… “Smoking and a dry environment can aggravate the symptoms of blepharitis,” says the ophthalmologist.

Blepharitis: what are the treatments?

The diagnosis of blepharitis is made by the ophthalmologist during an ophthalmic consultation: a clinical examination is usually sufficient.

In case of blepharitis of infectious origin (with scabs at the base of the eyelashes), the doctor will prescribe locally antibiotics (an eyewash, drops…).

In the case of non-infectious blepharitis, treatment is based on good eyelid hygiene: the area should be cleaned daily with an ophthalmic wipe or a mild soap (bought in a pharmacy) until the symptoms disappear.

The doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs (locally or orally: eye drops or tablets) if the above measures are insufficient, as well as artificial tears in case of severe dryness of the eye.

How can blepharitis be prevented? To avoid the appearance (or recurrence!) of blepharitis, good hygiene around the eyes and eyelids is recommended (e.g., washing your hands thoroughly before inserting your contact lenses to avoid bacterial infection).

Avoid air-conditioned environments (where the air is dry, which can lead to eye diseases) or carefully remove your make-up at night before going to sleep (again: to avoid bacterial infections!).

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