Blepharitis is a chronic inflammation of the margin or edge of the eyelids, and is very common. It will always be present but its severity it may fluctuate. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and itching of the eyelids and irritation and burning of the eyes. Symptoms may disappear for months or even years and then recur.

The most important factor in controlling blepharitis is keeping the eyelids and lashes clean. This can be accomplished by daily cleansing with a cotton swab soaked in a mild baby shampoo solution (a few drops of baby shampoo in a cap full of warm water). After you cleanse the lids with baby shampoo solution, then hold a warm, wet clean washcloth on the eyelids for several minutes. The best time to do this is at bedtime.

Once the symptoms are under control, the cleansing may be decreased from daily to twice weekly. However, if the symptoms return, daily cleansing should be resumed immediately. Medication is of secondary importance in the treatment. In more severe cases, an antibiotic ointment or an oral antibiotic may be prescribed to be used along with the daily cleansing.

There are two main causes of blepharitis: staphylococcus bacteria and seborrheic dermatitis. Staphylococcus bacteria normally are present on the skin starting in childhood and this continues throughout life. Common symptoms of blepharitis include flakes and scales on the eyelashes, as well as crusting, and chronic redness of the eyelid margin. Dilated blood vessels, loss of lashes, sties, and chalazia also may be seen. In severe cases, inflammation, infection and chronic scarring of the cornea and conjunctiva can occur.

Seborrheic dermatitis is secondary to overactive oil glands and it cause blockage of these oil glands and accumulate of debris along the eyelid margins. Blepharitis may be a part of an overall skin disorder that affects other areas as well. Hormones, nutrition, and the general physical condition are factors in seborrheic dermatitis.