What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a chronic inflammation of the eyelids that usually affects both eyes. It is a very common condition and can occur in both adults and children.

What causes blepharitis?

The exact cause of blepharitis is unknown. One of the most common causes of blepharitis is an infection of eyelids caused by a common bacterium called ‘Staphylococcus’. It can also be associated with other skin conditions such as acne rosacea.

What are the symptoms?

  • a sensation of something in your eye
  • itchiness
  • excessive tears
  • excessive blinking
  • sensitivity to light
  • sore or painful eyelids
  • redness and thickening of eyelid margins
  • dry eyes

What is the treatment for blepharitis?

While blepharitis is an ongoing condition, your symptoms can be controlled.

Treatment consists mainly of cleaning your eyelids. Artificial teardrops which are available over the counter at your local chemist will help any of the above symptoms from associated dry eyes. In more severe cases, you may be prescribed antibiotic drops or tablets for a period of time.

It may take weeks to months of treatment to improve your symptoms. As symptoms can reoccur, regular long term treatment is recommended.

If blepharitis is left untreated, you may develop conditions including:

  • A stye or chalazion (an infected or inflamed eyelid gland)
  • Conjunctivitis (inflamed surface of the eye)
  • Eyelashes turning inwards and rubbing on surface of eye

 If your eyelids are itchy, do not rub or scratch them as this will worsen the inflammation. Instead, use a warm compress. Contact lenses and eye make-up can also worsen the condition and should be avoided during treatment.

 Suggested cleaning routine

  1. Wash both your hands thoroughly.
  2. Clean one eye at a time.
  3. Apply a warm compress (eg a face-washer or make-up cleansing pad soaked in warm water) to the eyelid, with your eyes closed. Gently massage or rub the edges of your eyelids for two minutes.
  4. You can also make a solution (a few drops of baby shampoo in half cup of lukewarm water), dip a cotton wall ball or pad into the solution and close your eye and gently rub the cotton wall ball or pad over your eyelid and lashes.
  5. Rinse your eyelid thoroughly with warm water and pat dry carefully.
  6. Repeat the procedure with your other eye using a clean face-washer or cleansing pad.

Your eyelid should be cleaned twice a day for three to four weeks until symptoms improve, then twice a week, to maintain eyelid hygiene. If your symptoms return start daily cleaning again.

Where can I get more information on blepharitis? 

For current information on Blepharitis, please view the fact sheet here.

Disclaimer This document describes the generally accepted practice at the time of publication only. It is only a summary of clinical knowledge regarding this area. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital makes no warranty, express or implied, that the information contained in this document is comprehensive. They accept no responsibility for any consequence arising from inappropriate application of this information.

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  • Blepharitis #30
  • Owner: Emergency Department
  • Last Reviewed: April 6, 2021
  • Next Review: April 6, 2026