An infant with mild blepharitis on his right side
Classification and external resources
Specialty Ophthalmology
ICD-10 H01.0
ICD-9-CM 373.0
DiseasesDB 1455
MedlinePlus 001619
eMedicine oph/81
Patient UK Blepharitis
MeSH D001762
Blepharitis of the right eye.

Blepharitis (/blɛfərˈts/ BLEF-ər-EYE-tis) is a common eye condition characterized by chronic inflammation of the eyelid, usually where eyelashes grow, resulting in inflamed, irritated, itchy, and reddened eyelids. A number of diseases and conditions can lead to blepharitis. It can be caused by the oil glands at the base of the eyelashes becoming clogged, a bacterial infection, allergies, or other conditions. The severity and course can vary. Onset can be acute, resolving without treatment within 2–4 weeks (this can be greatly reduced with lid hygiene), but more generally is a long-standing chronic inflammation of varying severity.

It may be classified as seborrhoeic, staphylococcal, mixed, posterior or meibomitis, or parasitic.[1] It usually does not cause permanent damage.


Blepharitis is characterized by chronic inflammation of the eyelid, usually at the base of the eyelashes.[2][3][4] This results in inflamed, irritated, itchy, and reddened eyelids.[2][3]

It is typically caused by bacterial infection or blockage of the eyelid's oil glands, although sometimes it is caused by allergies.[3] Various diseases and conditions can lead to blepharitis, such as rosacea, herpes simplex dermatitis, varicella-zoster dermatitis, molluscum contagiosum, allergic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, staphylococcal dermatitis, and parasitic infections (e.g., Demodex and Phthiriasis palpebrarum).[2][4]

Symptoms associated with blepharitis include:

External hordeolum

Blepharitis usually does not cause permanent eyesight damage.[2] Chronic blepharitis may result in damage of varying severity which may have a negative effect upon vision and therefore upon the eyeglass prescription.[6] Long-term untreated blepharitis can lead to eyelid scarring, excess tearing, difficulty wearing contact lenses, development of a stye (an infection near the base of the eyelashes, resulting in a painful lump on the edge of the eyelid) or a chalazion (a blockage/bacteria infection in a small oil glands at the margin of the eyelid, just behind the eyelashes, leading to a red, swollen eyelid), chronic pink eye (conjunctivitis), keratitis, and cornea ulcer or irritation.[3][7][8] The lids may become red and may have ulcerative, non-healing areas which may bleed.[6]

Blepharitis can cause blurred vision due to a poor tear film.[3] Also, the tears might seem frothy or bubbly in nature and mild scarring might occur to the eyelids. The symptoms and signs of blepharitis are often erroneously ascribed by the patient as being due to "recurrent conjunctivitis".[9]

Staphylococcal blepharitis

Staphylococcal blepharitis is caused by infection of the anterior portion of the eyelid by Staphylococcal bacteria. Symptoms include a foreign body sensation, matting of the lashes, and burning. Collarette around eyelashes, a ring-like formation around the lash shaft, can be observed.[10] Other symptoms include loss of eyelashes or broken eyelashes.[11] The condition can sometimes lead to a chalazion or a stye.[12]

Staphylococcal blepharitis is a condition which may start in childhood and continue through adulthood.[13] It is commonly recurrent and it requires special medical care. The prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus in the conjunctival sac and on the lid margin varies among countries, probably due to climate.[14] Chronic bacterial blepharitis may lead to ectropion. [15]

Posterior blepharitis or rosacea-associated blepharitis

Posterior blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids secondary to dysfunction of the meibomian glands. Like anterior blepharitis, it is a bilateral chronic condition and is manifested by a broad spectrum of symptoms involving the lids including inflammation and plugging of the meibomian orifices and production of abnormal secretion upon pressure over the glands. It may be associated with skin rosacea,[1] and there is growing evidence that in some cases it is caused by demodex mites.[16]


The doctor typically diagnoses the condition on physical examination of the area. A specimen of material is occasionally collected for bacterial or fungal testing.[17][18]

Prevention (eyelid hygiene)

Careful daily washing of the eyelids seems to prevent blepharitis. A simple routine is to wash each eyelid for 30 seconds twice a day, using a clean face flannel with a single drop of nonirritant soap (e.g. baby shampoo) and ample water.


Blepharitis does not often disappear entirely, and even successful treatment is often followed by relapses.[19]

A Cochrane Systematic Review of topical antibiotics were shown to be effective in providing symptomatic relief and clearing bacteria for individuals with anterior blepharitis.[20] Topical steroids provided some symptomatic relief but were ineffective in clearing bacteria from the eyelids.[20] Lid hygiene measures such as warm compresses and lid scrubs were found to be effective in providing symptomatic relief for participants with anterior and posterior blepharitis.[20] There is now also a form of treating blepharitis called Lipflow which is very fast and effective and improvements have been known to last up to 12 months.

Home care

  1. Soften lid margin debris and oils: Place a very warm wet compress such as a warm wet washcloth over the closed eyelids for five minutes.[3][21] Re-wet and reapply it as it cools.[3][8] This warms, softens, and loosens crusty and oily eyelid gland deposits.[3][8][21]
  2. Remove lid margin debris: Immediately after, gently wash the eyelids with a warm, wet, soapy washcloth to remove accumulated debris.[8][19] Use diluted non-burning baby shampoo.[3][21] Gently and repeatedly rub along the lid margins while eyes are closed. Too much soap or shampoo may remove the essential oily layer of the eyes' own tear film and create further problems with dry eye discomfort. A moist cotton swab soaked in a cup of water with a drop of baby shampoo may be used to rub along the lid margins while tilting the lid outward with the other hand. Rinse the eyelid with warm water and gently dry with a towel.[21]
  3. Antibiotics (if prescribed): To reduce lid margin bacteria to help control blepharitis caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics such as erythromycin or sulfacetamide may be used via eyedrops, cream, or ointment on the eyelid margin. Oral medication is sometimes prescribed.[8][19] If used by cream or ointment, after lid margin cleaning, spread small amount of prescription antibiotic ophthalmic ointment with finger tip along lid fissure while eyes closed. Use prior to bedtime to avoid blurry vision.
  4. Steroid eyedrops/ointments. Eyedrops or ointments containing corticosteroids, sometimes combined with antibiotics, can help control eye and eyelid inflammation.[3][8][19]
  5. Treat underlying conditions. Blepharitis caused by seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, or other diseases may be controlled by treating the underlying disease.[19]
  6. Eye make-up should be discontinued while inflammation is present.[3][21]
  7. Dandruff shampoo. If dandruff is contributing to the blepharitis, using a dandruff-controlling shampoo may relieve blepharitis symptoms.[21]

Microbial blepharitis is treated with antibiotics such as sulfacetamide eye ointment applied on a cotton applicator once daily to the lid margins. Ophthalmologists or optometrists may prescribe low-dose oral antibiotics such as Doxycycline and occasionally weak topical steroids.[1]

Blepharitis caused by demodex mites can be treated using a diluted solution of tea tree oil and using a cotton swab for 5–10 minutes per day.[22]


  1. 1 2 3 Emmett T. Cunningham; Paul Riordan-Eva. Vaughan & Asbury's general ophthalmology. (18th ed.). McGraw-Hill Medical. ISBN 978-0071634205.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Blepharitis Definition - Diseases and Conditions - Mayo Clinic
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Blepharitis: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention
  4. 1 2 3 4 Medscape: Medscape Access
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Blepharitis Symptoms - Diseases and Conditions - Mayo Clinic
  6. 1 2 Frank J. Weinstock. "Eyelid Inflammation Symptoms". Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  7. Blepharitis Complications - Diseases and Conditions - Mayo Clinic
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Medscape: Medscape Access
  9. Dahl, Andrew. "What are the symptoms and signs of blepharitis?". Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  10. R Scott Lowery (Jun 17, 2011). "Adult Blepharitis". Medscape. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  11. James Garrity (August 2012). "Blepharitis". The Merck Manual. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  12. "Blepharitis, Stye and Chalazion". University of Illinois College of Medicine. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  13. "Blepharitis". Angeles Vision Clinic. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  14. Smolin G, Okumoto M (1977). "Staphylococcal blepharitis". Archives of ophthalmology. 95 (5): 812–816. doi:10.1001/archopht.1977.04450050090009. PMID 324453.
  16. Liu J, Sheha H, Tseng SCG (October 2010). "Pathogenic Role of Demodex Mites in Blepharitis". Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 10 (5): 505–510. doi:10.1097/aci.0b013e32833df9f4.
  17. Blepharitis Tests and diagnosis - Diseases and Conditions - Mayo Clinic
  18. Medscape: Medscape Access
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 Blepharitis Treatments and drugs - Diseases and Conditions - Mayo Clinic
  20. 1 2 3 Lindsey K, Matsumara S, Hatel E, Akpek EK (2012). "Interventions for chronic blepharitis". Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 5: CD00556. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005556.pub2. PMC 4270370Freely accessible. PMID 22592706.
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Blepharitis Lifestyle and home remedies - Diseases and Conditions - Mayo Clinic
  22. Jingbo Liu, Hosam Sheha, and C.G. Tsenga. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 October; 10(5): 505–510. PMID 20689407.

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