Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids in which they become red, irritated and itchy and dandruff-like scales form on the eyelashes. It is a common eye disorder caused by either bacteria or a skin condition, such as dandruff of the scalp or rosacea. It affects people of all ages.

There are 3 components to the tear film: oil, water and mucus. These three layers must be in balance to have normally functioning tears. Without the proper combination of secretions, the tear film breaks down and becomes unstable. This causes itching, burning, grittiness and occasionally a red eye. This unstable tear film can also cause intermittent blurring of vision. The eyes may feel dry or watery depending on the consistency of the tears. Sometimes the eyes may overflow with watery tears as the body tries to “flush” out this gritty sensation. Rarely, problems such as ulcers or scars in the cornea can be caused by blepharitis.

Blepharitis can begin as early as childhood, producing crusting of eyelids, styes and, rarely, damage to the surface of the eyeball. For some children, it may continue throughout life, or in others may gradually resolve. Blepharitis can also start later in life and may be related to menopause or aging. There can also be an associated dry eye which will worsen symptoms.

Blepharitis is not an infection, but it reduces the eye’s ability to fight bacteria and secondary infections, or severe bacterial overgrowth may occur in some cases.


  • Warm compresses: Any of the following compresses may be used; warm damp facecloth, hot packs, microwaveable hot pad, rice in a sock heated in the microwave. Place on eyes for at least 5 minutes. This should be as warm as you can tolerate without burning your eyelid. Repeat 1-5 times a day.


  • Massage: Massage is also recommended along with warm compresses as this helps get the fluids flowing. GENTLY massage with a q-tip or a clean finger toward the eyelid margin.


  • Lid scrubs/ Shampoos: This is used for crusting and matting of the eyelid lashes. This can be done several times a week or daily. The purpose is to help clear the eyelids of oily build-up. Warm water and a couple drops of baby shampoo with a cloth, clean finger or facecloth can be rubbed along the lash line then rinsed. Sometimes the symptoms may worsen initially as the toxins are released. Lubricant eye drops or ointment may be used after to rinse away the toxins. Proper removal of eye makeup with eye make remover is also important to avoid irritation.


  • Eyelid wipes: Tea tree oil (Cliradex®) is an all-natural, preservative-free eyelid and facial cleanser wipe. This can be used to clean the eyelids and remove excess oily build up. Your pharmacy or drug store may also carry other lid wipe brands.


  • Lubrication: There are many types of lubricants due to the tremendous variation in patients. There is always a period of trial and error to find which drop will work for you. These are to be used on a frequent basis. Preservative-free lubricants, such as Hylo drops or Bion tears, can be used more often (up to hourly). A humidifier can also provide relief and may be used at night at the bedside.


  • Dietary Supplements: Omega fatty acids may also be helpful such as: flax seed oil, fish oils (fresh fish twice a week). Omega Swirl for Kids is a dietary supplement of Omega-3 that tastes like a smoothie (this can be found at most health food stores, such as Community Natural Foods).


  • Prescription medications: Topical antibiotics or oral antibiotics may be prescribed by your ophthalmologist or family physician. Prescription medication requires monitoring. If your medication includes a steroid it can have long term side effects such as glaucoma and cataracts. Make sure regular appointments are scheduled, in most cases this will be 1-6 months. Oral antibiotics should NOT be used if you know or think you may be pregnant.

  • BlephEx: We now offer a new service at our office to very precisely and carefully, spin a medical grade micro-sponge along the edge of your eyelids and lashes, removing scurf and debris and exfoliating your eyelids. Click here to read more on this in-office procedure!