Inflamed Eyelid (Blepharitis)

What is an inflamed eyelid?

An inflamed eyelid, called blepharitis, is redness and swelling of the edges of your eyelids. This condition is very common, especially in older adults. It does not usually affect your eyesight but can cause mild blurring that comes and goes.

What is the cause?

Causes of an inflamed eyelid include:

  • Bacteria
  • A skin condition called rosacea, which causes the oil glands of the skin of the face, nose, and eyelids to get clogged

People who have dandruff or oily skin are more likely to have an inflamed eyelid.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Redness, irritation, itching, or burning of the skin at the edge of your eyelid
  • Matted eyelashes or crusty buildup on the edge of your eyelid, especially in the morning
  • Lashes that fall out
  • Dry eyes or watery eyes

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and activities and examine your eyes. A sample of the buildup from your eyelids may be sent to a lab to check for bacteria.

How is it treated?

Treatment involves careful washing of your eyelids and lashes. Your provider will tell you how often you should clean your eyelids.

Your provider may prescribe ointment to help relieve your symptoms. After washing your lids and lashes, rub the ointment along the edges of your eyelids. Follow your provider's instructions carefully.

In some cases, you may need to take antibiotic pills.

How can I take care of myself?

You may need to follow a cleansing routine for several weeks or months:

  • Moisten a washcloth with warm water and hold it over both eyes for several minutes. The water and steam will help to soften any buildup of dirt or skin cells on your eyelids. A gentle massage on your eyelids with the washcloth can help remove the buildup.
  • Add a few drops of baby shampoo to a cup of water. Moisten a cotton swab with this mixture. Using the swab, clean all the buildup from the edges of your eyelids and eyelashes. Use a new swab for each eye. Do not let the swab touch your eyeball.

For some people, an inflamed eyelid may never completely go away. For others, cleansing and medicine may cure the problem. Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider.

How can I prevent blepharitis?

Regular cleansing may help keep blepharitis from coming back.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:

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