The medical term for irritated and swollen eyelids is blepharitis. This is a chronic and common eye condition. However, it is not contagious and commonly happens due to oily skin or other skin diseases.

What is Blepharitis?

Inflammation of the eyelid is called blepharitis and the lid’s edges often become red or dark in color and swollen. This eye disease usually impacts both eyes and the primary cause is skin conditions. Other blepharitis causes include skin infection or oil glands becoming clogged. In some circumstances, these factors can occur at the same time.

Furthermore, not treating this condition may lead to an eye infection. In addition, this condition is not contagious and does not lead to blindness.

How Common is Blepharitis?

This is considered a common health condition that can affect anyone including adults and children. Additionally, staphylococcal blepharitis mostly impacts women and people assigned to female at birth (AFAB). This blepharitis type accounts for approximately 80% of cases.

Blepharitis Types

Healthcare providers classify this condition into 2 categories depending on the location of the eyelids. Examples include:

  • Anterior blepharitis – It is considered you have this blepharitis type when the eyelashes come out of your lids.
  • Posterior blepharitis – In such cases, the oil-making Meibomian glands under the eyelid produce unhealthy oil.


  • Irritated and red eyes that burn
  • Itchiness
  • Crusting of eyelashes and eyelid corners
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Flakes of skin collecting around the eyes and eyelids
  • Dry eye or excessive tearing
  • Blinking
  • Light sensitivity (photophobia)
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of eyelashes
  • Trichiasis (eyelashes grow toward the eyes)


The main causes of blepharitis are skin conditions, infections, or Meibomian gland problems.

Anterior Blepharitis Causes

  • Acne rosacea
  • Allergies
  • Dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis)
  • Dry eyes
  • Lice or mites in eyelashes (demodicosis)

Posterior Blepharitis Causes

Mostly, this blepharitis type occurs due to meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). Additionally, the following symptoms may mean you have a particular blepharitis type such as staphylococcal, seborrheic, ulcerative, or Meibomian. Examples include:

  • Greasy flakes
  • Bleeding when removing crusts
  • Poor quality tears
  • Missing eyelashes

Risk Factors

If you have any of the following health conditions along with rosacea and dandruff your risk of blepharitis increases. Examples include:

  • Live or work in dry environments (such as staying for long periods in air conditioning)
  • Explosion to irritants (including chemicals and dust)
  • Wear contact lenses
  • Diabetes
  • Oily skin
  • You have not removed the makeup thoroughly
  • High amounts of microbes that live on the skin
  • Use cancer medicines
  • Hormonal changes
  • Menopause

Can Poor Hygiene Provoke Blepharitis?

This is one factor that often contributes to blepharitis. However, this is not the only way blepharitis occurs. It is advised for people with a high risk of blepharitis to make eyelash and eyelid hygiene a priority.


Several tests are available that help to determine whether you have blepharitis or not. Check below the steps your physician will perform to diagnose this condition:

  • Health history – Doctors will ask you some questions about symptoms and other health conditions.
  • External eyelid examination – This test is done to check for intensity of redness, swelling, and discharge.
  • Cultures of discharge – This test helps to identify what bacteria type is present.
  • Tear test
  • Eyelash examination
  • Eyelid biopsy – This test is used in rare cases to determine skin cancer and abnormal cells.


The treatment usually depends on the severity and type of blepharitis you experience. Check below some blepharitis treatment methods:

  • Antibiotics – Physicians can prescribe an antibiotic ointment (such as Erythromycin or Bacitracin ophthalmic) or antibiotic eye drops (such as a combination of Polymyxin B and Trimethoprim). These medications help to lessen irritation and treat bacterial infections.
  • Anti-inflammatory Drugs – Your doctor may prescribe along with antibiotics a steroid eye drop or cream to decrease inflammation.
  • Immunomodulators – Cyclosporine ophthalmic is an immunomodulatory medicine used in the treatment of posterior blepharitis.

Additionally, it is important to find out and treat the root causes that provoke this eye condition. For example skin conditions or eye ailments (including dry eye).


This condition cannot be cured but with treatment and good eyelid hygiene can be controlled. However, if you leave blepharitis untreated, it may lead to some complications. For example:

  • Chalazion
  • Corneal ulcer (keratitis) – Due to prolonged infection or eyelid swelling it may lead to a sore on the cornea.
  • Eyelid problems
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Stye (sty) – This is a painful eyelid bump near the eyelashes.
  • Tear film problems


Unfortunately, blepharitis cannot be prevented. In any case, the following tips can help to improve symptoms. Examples include:

  • Maintain hands, face, and scalp clean
  • It is recommended to avoid touching eyes or face
  • Do not forget to remove all eye makeup before bed
  • Use a clean tissue to remove excess eye drops or tears
  • You should also wear glasses instead of contact lenses
  • Manage dry eyes
  • An anti-dandruff shampoo is recommended for use when washing your hair

For more details, discuss with your healthcare professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I treat my blepharitis at home?

Self-care at home can improve some blepharitis symptoms. For example:

  • Use a warm compress and place it over the eyelids
  • Avoid eye makeup
  • Add to your diet omega-3s because it can help your eyes and glands work better
  • Use lid scrubs because these are available as nonprescription spray or foam. Using them can help to reduce the dandruff on the lashes.

What happens if blepharitis goes untreated?

Do not leave this condition untreated because it may lead to some unpleasant outcomes. For example:

  • Permanent alterations in eyelid morphology
  • Corneal vascularization and ulceration
  • Keratopathy and others

Consult with your doctor for more details.

What makes blepharitis worse?

If you were diagnosed with this condition, you can consider the following tips that will help to avoid blepharitis worsening. Check below some examples:

  • Skin disease (such as acne, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, and others)
  • Dehydration
  • Sleeping problems
  • Contact lens wear
  • Prolonged computer use
  • Air-conditioned places
  • Cold windy weather

Ask your healthcare professional if you have any additional questions.

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