Blepharitis is inflammation of the rims of the eyelids, which causes them to become red and swollen.
Blepharitis is common, accounting for an estimated 1 in 20 eye problems reported to GPs. It is more common in people over 50, although it can develop at any age.
The symptoms of blepharitis can include:
- burning, soreness or stinging in the eyes
- crusty eyelashes
- itchy eyelids
Blepharitis can be caused by a bacterial infection, or it can be a complication of a skin condition such as:
- seborrhoeic dermatitis, which causes an itchy rash on the skin and scalp (seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp is called dandruff)
- rosacea, which causes the face to appear red and blotchy
It is not possible to catch blepharitis from someone else who has it.
Read more about the causes of blepharitis.
When to see your GP
See your GP if you are unable to control the symptoms of blepharitis with cleaning alone.
You may be referred to an opthalmologist (eye specialist) if you have severe symptoms.
Read more about diagnosing blepharitis.
Blepharitis is usually a long-term (chronic) condition, which means once it develops it can cause repeated episodes.
There is no cure for blepharitis, but establishing a daily eye-cleaning routine can help control the symptoms. This will need to be continued indefinitely. More severe cases of blepharitis may require antibiotics.
Read more about how blepharitis is treated.
Blepharitis is not usually serious. The most common complication is being unable to wear contact lenses while experiencing symptoms.
Up to half of people whose blepharitis is caused by a bacterial infection also have dry eye syndrome (a condition where the eyes do not produce enough tears or dry out too quickly).
Serious complications, such as sight loss, are rare, particularly if recommended advice is followed.
Read about the complications of blepharitis.