Blepharitis

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Blepharitis Symptom

Light Sensitivity (Photophobia)

Sensitivity to light is the inability to tolerate light, medically known as photophobia. In someone who is light sensitive, any type of light source (sunlight, fluorescent light, incandescent light) can cause discomfort. Photophobia typically causes a need to squint or close the eyes, and headache, nausea, or other symptoms may be associated with photophobia. Symptoms may be worse with bright light. Light sensitivity is caused by a number of conditions that affect the eye (such as iritis, uveitis, and keratitis), as well as conditions that affect the entire body.

Quick GuideCommon Eye Problems and Infections

Common Eye Problems and Infections

Blepharitis facts

  • Blepharitis is the term for eyelid inflammation.
  • Signs and symptoms of blepharitis include red, irritated, itchy eyelids, along with the formation of dandruff-like scales on the eyelashes and the eyelids.
  • The cause of most cases of blepharitis is a malfunction of the oil glands of the lids, although allergies, eye infections, and systemic diseases can also cause blepharitis.
  • In many cases, good eyelid hygiene and a regular cleaning routine can control blepharitis. In other instances, medications may be required.

What is blepharitis?

Picture of blepharitis

Blepharitis is the medical term for inflammation of the eyelids. The word "blepharitis" is derived from the Greek word blepharos, which means "eyelid," and the Greek suffix itis, which is typically used in English to denote an inflammation. Inflammation is the process by which white blood cells and the body's chemicals react to and protect us from foreign substances, injury, or infection. Signs of inflammation are eye swelling, redness, pain, warmth, and often change in function.

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, causing red, irritated, itchy eyelids and the formation of dandruff-like scales on the eyelashes. It is a common eye disorder with a wide variety of causes. It affects people of all ages. Although it may be uncomfortable, annoying, or unattractive, blepharitis is not contagious and does not cause permanent damage to eyesight. The skin condition can be difficult to manage and it tends to recur. Another term for blepharitis is granulated eyelids. Angular blepharitis describes inflammation that primarily affects the outer corners of the eyelids. Most patients with blepharitis have it in both eyes.

What causes blepharitis?

Blepharitis involves the eyelid margins, where the eyelashes grow and the openings of the tiny oil glands are located. There may be involvement of the skin adjacent to the outer edges of the eyelid margins and/or the inner edge of the eyelid that comes into contact with the eyeball secondary to the underlying disorder of the lid margins.

Most cases of blepharitis are posterior blepharitis, due to inflammation of the meibomian glands of the lids. There are about 40 of these glands in each of the upper and lower lids. The openings of each gland lie behind the eyelashes. The eyelid margins can become inflamed, irritated, and itchy when these glands produce abnormal secretions. Blepharitis is often seen in patients with acne rosacea, a common disorder of the oil glands of the skin of the face.

Anterior blepharitis is due to inflammation of the lid margin around the lashes. Seborrheic blepharitis is similar to dandruff of the scalp.

Allergies due to reactions from mascara, contact lens solutions, sprays, exposure to animals, environmental chemicals, or airborne allergens can also cause blepharitis.

Less commonly, inflammation of the lids can be caused by a primary infection of the eye lids by bacteria such as Staphylococci or infestation of the lashes by tiny mites (Demodex) or head lice.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/5/2016

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