Swollen Inflamed Eyelids

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Dr. S.S. Gill, Consultant Ophthalmologist

In our continuing series on Eye Health, Fatimah Hospital’s Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr. S.S. Gill talks to us about swollen red eyelids.

Blepharitis is a condition that results in our eyelid margins becoming inflamed. It usually is chronic, causing irritation on and off and results in the eyelids becoming swollen, crusted and red.

It is similar in nature to chronic skin conditions like eczema except that blepharitis affects the eyelids and that too mainly the eyelid margins. Ladies especially find it a problem because it makes their eye makeup application difficult.

It is also annoying because it is often recurrent and chronic. When we describe an illness using the term ‘chronic’, it refers to the duration a person has been having the illness. It does not indicate how serious the condition is. Blepharitis is quite often chronic!

People with skin conditions such as rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis (like dandruff in the scalp) are more prone to blepharitis. The increased oil produced by the glands near the eyelid margins causes excess bacterial growth resulting in inflammation and redness. Another cause may be contact dermatitis due to allergies from a new makeup that you may have just started on.

Symptoms of blepharitis (inflamed eyelids) may include the following:

  • swollen and red eyelids
  • crusting on the eyelashes
  • gritty, burning or itching feeling in your eyes
  • eyelids sticking together
  • scaly or greasy eyelids
  • difficulty in wearing your contact lenses
  • blurred vision when the eyelid produces the oily secretions that get into the eye

How will it be treated?

If your practitioner has confirmed that you have blepharitis, then having good eyelid hygiene is even more important. Keep your eyelids clean and free from crusting of skin in order to reduce the risk of an infection.

Putting a warm moist compress by soaking a towel in hot water and then placing the warm towel over your eyelids for five to 10 minutes will often help. The water should not be scalding hot and the compress should feel comfortable on your skin. This often helps to loosen any crusting or flakes of skin. This can be done twice a day.

You can also clean your eyelids by using a small amount of baby shampoo diluted in warm water. Apply it with a cotton bud along the edge of your eyelid and rinse. Do not wear any eye makeup during this time as it could worsen your condition or slow down healing.

Depending on the cause, your practitioner may treat you with either antibiotic eye ointment or a mild steroid eye ointment to be used sparingly. This will need to be applied using a clean finger or a cotton bud taking care not to scratch your eye during application. If your symptoms are severe or other treatments don’t work, your practitioner may prescribe oral antibiotics.

Blepharitis may be mistaken for other eye disorders, such as conjunctivitis or a stye or chalazion (small bump in the eyelid caused by a blockage of a tiny oil gland). Only your medical practitioner can properly diagnose blepharitis. If you suspect you have blepharitis, seek prompt medical attention.

For more information, contact Gill Eye Specialist Centre at 05-5455582, email: gilleyecentre@dr.com or visit www.fatimah.com.my.