Your eyes are your windows to the world, but what happens if they become inflamed and itchy? Blepharitis may be the cause—a condition that can cause discomfort and irritation. While the symptoms of blepharitis can be disruptive, the condition is generally not contagious.
What Is Blepharitis?
Blepharitis is a chronic inflammation of the eyelids, usually affecting both the upper and lower portions. The condition is caused by the overgrowth of bacteria on the eyelids or a reaction to the oil produced in the glands near the eyelashes.
There are 2 types of blepharitis:
- Anterior blepharitis, which occurs on the outer side of the eyelid, is typically caused by Staphylococcus bacteria.
- Posterior blepharitis, which develops on the inner eyelid, is often caused by problems in the eye’s oil glands.
Causes of Blepharitis
A variety of factors can cause blepharitis, and some of the most common include:
- Bacterial infection
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD)
- Eyelash mites
It’s best to have your eye doctor assess the cause of your blepharitis to determine an effective treatment for your specific case.
Risk Factors for Blepharitis
Those with certain conditions may be more likely to develop blepharitis, including:
- Oily skin
You may also be at higher risk if you’re over 50, but it can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender.
Symptoms of Blepharitis
Blepharitis presents itself in various ways and may vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:
- Red, swollen eyelids
- Itching, flaky skin around the eye
- Burning sensation
- Crusty eyelashes
- Gritty sensation in the eye, as if there is something in it
- Watery eyes
- Light sensitivity
Severe cases may cause additional problems, like blurry vision, loss of eyelashes, or swelling in the eye or cornea.
Treatment Options for Blepharitis
The treatment for blepharitis typically depends on the cause of the condition.
- Antibiotics: A prescription from your eye doctor is often the first line of defence against bacterial blepharitis.
- Lubricating eye drops: Your optometrist may recommend artificial tears to relieve your symptoms caused by meibomian gland dysfunction, or they may prescribe steroid eye drops to control the more severe symptoms.
- Addressing underlying conditions: If blepharitis is caused by rosacea, dandruff, or other medical conditions, your optometrist may recommend first addressing the root cause.
The appropriate treatment for blepharitis varies based on the severity of symptoms. Mild cases can often be treated at home. The best way to manage mild cases of blepharitis is to keep the eyelids clean.
You can do so by placing a warm compress on the eyelids for 5 to 10 minutes, then by cleaning the eyelids with a cotton swab dipped in water and baby shampoo or specialty eye scrubs. This process should be repeated twice daily, and eye makeup should be avoided until symptoms subside.
Lifestyle modifications can help prevent a recurrence. Maintaining good eye hygiene is essential, including washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your eyes. Additionally, avoiding smoky and dry environments can help reduce blepharitis flare-ups. It’s also worth noting that if you wear contact lenses, you may need to be extra thorough when cleaning and disinfecting them.
Ultimately, the key to preventing blepharitis is to maintain good eye hygiene. Those who frequently experience dry or itchy eyes should visit an optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam. This exam can help identify the cause of your symptoms and determine the appropriate treatment plan. Additionally, using artificial tears or a humidifier can moisten the eyes and reduce the chance of flare-ups.
What Eye Conditions Are Contagious?
Your eyes are constantly exposed to different elements and harbour several microorganisms. Some eye conditions can be contagious, transmitting from one person to another through touch or shared items.
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a prevalent eye condition that can be highly contagious. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including bacteria, viruses, or allergens. Its symptoms include redness, itching, burning, and discharge from the eye. It can be transmitted through direct contact with infected hands or contaminated surfaces such as towels, pillows, and doorknobs.
A stye is an infection at the base of the eyelash or on the eyelid that’s typically not contagious. It can be a complication of blepharitis caused by Staphylococcus bacteria that enters the hair follicles. In some cases, it can be contagious if you come into contact with the pus from an infected person’s stye.
Avoid Blepharitis with Preventative Eye Care
While blepharitis is fairly common, it can be a nuisance and affect your daily activities if left untreated. Knowing the symptoms and causes of blepharitis can help you identify the condition and seek attention from your optometrist.If you’re struggling with eye discomfort, schedule an appointment with Urban Optique for a comprehensive eye exam to begin the appropriate treatment. Caring for your eyes is essential for maintaining healthy vision and overall well-being.