Inflamed Eyelids

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Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist, Hospital Fatimah Ipoh
Dr S.S. Gill

Eye Health

Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. Gill talking to us about BLEPHARITIS, or inflammation of the eyelids.

Blepharitis, or “inflammation of the eyelids”, comes from the Greek word “blepharos”, which means “eyelid” and “itis” which means inflammation.

WHAT DOES BLEPHARITIS APPEAR LIKE?

The eyelids usually appear crusted, red and swollen. The crust is yellowish-white and powdery, like the scalp of a person who suffers from dandruff. There may be varied symptoms. In most cases, the eyes become itchy, irritated and sometimes feel dry due to the disruption of the layer of tear film that is normally present in the eye. Contact lens wearers may complain of discomfort and a gritty sensation. This is often mistaken by the layman as “dry eyes”.

When blepharitis becomes chronic, there may not be much signs of inflammation such as redness but just a visible crusting on the eyelid and eyelashes. This may appear a little unsightly especially when the crusting on the eyelashes is visible. You may liken it to a skin condition except that in the case of blepharitis, it affects the eyelid margins where the eyelashes arise. Blepharitis can affect any age, both young and old.

Inflamed eyelids - dr gillWHAT CAUSES BLEPHARITIS?

When the oil glands at the eyelid margins malfunction and produces too much oil (sebaceous secretions), blepharitis can occur. At times, it may be associated with an underlying skin condition called Acne rosacea where there is already a generalised illness of the oil glands of the skin. Allergies to certain cosmetics like mascara, eyelid lotions, contact lens solutions, allergens in the air and some chemicals may also trigger blepharitis.

WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS OF BLEPHARITIS?

Blepharitis usually does not cause any serious eye conditions. However, it may cause the following:

1. Stye:

    This occurs when the oil glands of the eye gets infected. A lump appears on the eyelid margin in a localised area. There may be some pus seen on the tip of the stye (appearing like a pimple about to rupture), with surrounding redness of the eyelid.

2. Chronic Conjunctivitis:

    Blepharitis may cause recurrent bouts of conjunctivitis or pink eye. If this happens, eliminating this underlying problem is essential.

3. Chalazion:

    Occurs when the oil glands of the eyelid get blocked. This is painless but appears unsightly with a lump appearing on the eyelid.

4. Cornea Ulcers:

    Due to chronic irritation by the inflamed eyelids and/or a misdirected eyelash growth, an ulcer may form on the cornea. Corneal ulcers are serious conditions.

HOW IS THIS PREVENTED AND TREATED?

Good eyelid hygiene is essential to prevent blepharitis. Frequent face washing, warm compresses over the eyelids and removal of eye makeup is important. Remove any crusting present on the eyelid margins. Cleaning the eyelids with a cotton bud soaked in a very dilute (5 parts water to) baby shampoo is helpful to control any excessive oiliness and crust. Basically, every effort must be made to keep the eyelid clean. The other alternative is to use a special over-the-counter Lid Care cleaner. Keep the eyes closed when cleaning. Be especially careful to avoid rubbing or scratching your eyes.

If you are in doubt about any eyelid problems, do seek professional help.