How to Cure Sore Eyes when Dealing with Blepharitis
What Is Blepharitis?
Swollen eyelids, crusty build-up along your eyelashes in the morning, sore eyes—what does it all mean? If you experience these symptoms on a regular basis, then its likely you have a condition called blepharitis.
Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelid, particularly at the rims where your eyelashes sprout from the skin. There are a number of different types of blepharitis, and in many cases, it’s fairly minor and easily treatable. However, there are those who suffer from chronic swelling eyelids, and for them, special measures need to be taken in order to treat it.
Here, we’ll go over the types and causes of blepharitis, the symptoms, and how it’s commonly treated.
Types of Blepharitis
Blepharitis comes in various forms, and it may affect the interior or exterior part of the eyelid. When it affects the outer rim of the eyelid, it’s referred to as anterior blepharitis. When it’s on the inside where the skin meets the eye, it’s called posterior blepharitis.
In addition to this distinction between posterior and anterior, there are further classifications that are derived from the various causes of blepharitis. These classifications include the following:
In this condition, swollen and sore eyes are closely tied with a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, also known as seborrheic eczema. This condition is connected to a yeast in the sebum (an oily substance) in the skin. It usually causes no problems in most people, but in some cases it can lead to inflammation, including along the eyelids.
Sometimes, blepharitis is related to a bacterial infection. For instance, Staphylococcus is a type of bacteria that lives on human skin and sometimes infects the eyelids. Infection is very rare, however—it is normally harmless. The reason why this happens is currently unclear, but the end result is swelling and discomfort in the eyelid.
In another case, blepharitis appears to be directly related to the Meibomian glands (also known as tarsal glands). There are roughly 25 of these glands on each lower eyelid and 50 on the upper eyelids. These secrete an oily substance called meibum which keeps the film over your eyes from evaporating, which in turns keeps them moist. In some people, these glands don’t quite function properly, resulting in inflammation and dry eyes.
What Causes Blepharitis?
In addition to the abovementioned causes, blepharitis may result from a number of factors that cause inflammation. As such, it frequently accompanies various dermatological conditions and eye diseases. Further contributing factors include:
- Rosacea, which causes redness in the skin and makes blood vessels highly visible
- Hyperallergic reactions to allergens like animal fur, cosmetics, sprays etc.
- Chalazion (inflammation in the tear gland)
- Ingrown eyelashes
- Ectropion and entropion, in which the eyelid rolls outward or inward respectively
- Inflammatory conjunctivitis
- Keratitis, which is inflammation of the cornea
These can lead to irritation or infection in the eyelid tissues, causing them to swell up. This inflammation may also cause secretions from the Meibomian glands along the rim of each eyelid, thereby leading to the crusty buildup that’s symptomatic of blepharitis.
In addition to these systemic and dermatological diseases, blepharitis is also more common in those who have dandruff problems. Therefore, as you get your dandruff under control, you can also reduce swollen and sore eyelids.
Finally, it should be noted that whilst blepharitis often accompanies the abovementioned conditions, its precise causes are often unclear, especially in those who experience it on a recurring basis.
For instance, while it’s thought that Meibomian blepharitis results from a disorder with the Meibomian glands, the exact relationship between the glands and blepharitis is not fully understood. To complicate the matter, some believe that it works the other way round—they believe that blepharitis leads to problems with the tarsal glands rather than vice-versa.
Common Symptoms of Blepharitis
While the exact causes may not always be clear, blepharitis is easily recognisable. The most common symptoms for this condition include the following:
- Swollen and/or itchy eyelids
- Red, irritated, or sore eyes
- Photophobia, i.e. hypersensitivity to light often resulting in pain, headache, blurred vision, etc.
- Watery eyes
- Sensation of grit below the eyelid
- Crusty buildup along the rim of the eyelid
- Flaking skin around the eyelashes similar in nature to dandruff
- Ulceration or scarring of the eyelids
- Eyelids sticking together
- Frothy or bubbly tears
These symptoms tend to be more noticeable in the morning right after waking up. In those who have chronic blepharitis, they may come and go over time. If you frequently experience crusty buildup around the eyelids, sore eyes, and headaches in the morning, then you probably have this condition.
How Long Does Blepharitis Last?
The duration of blepharitis depends on the causal factors involved. If it has resulted from an eye infection, for instance, then it will typically disappear after the infection is treated. When the underlying cause is alleviated, so too are swollen and sore eyes, meaning proper diagnosis of other conditions is often vital when treating blepharitis.
However, the cause may not always be clear, making it impossible to remove the underlying issue. Chronic blepharitis resulting from inflammation of the Meibomian glands can last for years before going into remission, and even then, it typically only does so as the result of proper eye hygiene and daily treatments.
Regular eye care can lessen symptoms and even cause swelling to vanish entirely. However, ceasing those treatments will typically allow it to return, so consistency is key.
Medical Treatments for Blepharitis
When it comes to controlling blepharitis, there are numerous medical treatments that may be used. Some of these are specifically prescribed by a doctor, whereas others are available over the counter.
Artificial tears can be a good way to counter dry eyes, which is one of the common symptoms of blepharitis. They can also control inflammation, further reducing symptoms. While artificial tears can be used without a prescription, it’s recommended that you consult with a specialist prior to using them to make sure they don’t lead to harmful side effects.
Electrochemical Lid Margin Debridement
Physicians provide mechanical cleanings such as electrochemical lid margin debridement (known as BlephEx). These treatments can be highly effective at clearing away buildup along the eyelids. Your doctor will use a handheld tool equipped with a spinning sponge tip to clear away debris and meibum buildup.
Thermal Pulsation Treatment
Another medical treatment uses a combination of heat and massage to melt away crusty buildup and help the tarsal glands in the eyelids express their fluids. This is another procedure carried out by a doctor at his or her office, so while it can be effective, it’s not a replacement for daily home treatment.
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy
This method uses intense waves of light to warm the eye and essentially melt away meibum buildup, thereby unclogging the glands along the eyelids and allowing them to express properly. The treatment is repeated a few times over the course of four weeks in order to ensure lasting results.
When blepharitis occurs as a result of an infection of the eye or tissue around the eyelids, antibiotic treatments can resolve the problem. These can be taken orally or applied topically, depending on the nature and intensity of the infection, but the end goal is the same—eliminate whatever bacteria is causing the inflammation and remove the underlying cause for ophthalmic discomfort.
It should be noted that these are not the main ways to treat blepharitis. Usually, your doctor will recommend regular home treatments to clear away meibum buildup, reduce swelling, and improve eye hygiene.
Home Remedies for Blepharitis
Home remedies for blepharitis are simple, but effective. These remedies include the following.
Since one of the primary symptoms of blepharitis is inflammation, the first course of home treatment is to use a warm compress. All you need to do is take a soft cloth, moisten it in warm water, and place it over the closed eyelids. When it cools, reheat it with warm water and apply once again, repeating for about 10 minutes.
Whilst using warm compresses on your eyelids, remember that it’s important to be gentle. Avoid using abrasive cloth, and be careful not to irritate the skin. Also, be sure that the water is not too hot—otherwise, there is a chance of minor facial burns and further problems with the eyelid.
An alternative way to apply heat to the eyelid is with a blepharitis eye mask. Depending on your needs, one of these may prove more convenient than using a warm cloth.
Whether you use a heated cloth or a mask, this treatment helps soften and loosen the meibum buildup, making it easier to clean off without irritating the eyelid further.
Once the meibum has been loosened through a warm compress, a massage is the next step. Using either your finger or a cotton swab, gently massage the eyelid with small circular motions, particularly along the rim where the lashes meet the skin.
Massages should be done with your eyes closed, and you should apply gentle pressure to the skin—but not so much that you cause yourself pain. On the upper eyelid, strokes should be primarily downward, whilst on the lower eyelid they should be focused upward. This helps the tarsal glands secrete excess fluid that may have accumulated, thereby clearing them out and preventing further buildup during the day.
The massage should be repeated up to 10 times over the course of 30 minutes to make sure it’s completely thorough.
After applying a warm compress and massaging the eye, it’s time to cleanse the eyelid and remove the buildup completely. A common way to do this is by diluting a few drops of baby shampoo in a half cup of warm water. Using a cotton swab, gently apply the solution to the eyelid. Again, it’s important not to be rough with this treatment since any abrasiveness could lead to more inflammation and exacerbate the problem.
There are other solutions that can be used for cleansing. Various eye cleansers are available that have been specially formulated for treating blepharitis. Additionally, many people recommend adding a bit of sodium bicarbonate to recently boiled water rather than using a shampoo solution, but this has been known to cause irritation in some cases. Be sure to take professional advice before trying any of these methods yourself.
Warm compresses, eyelid massages, and cleanses should be carried out twice daily in order to produce the best results. Once your blepharitis clears up, don’t stop—as inconvenient as it may seem, continuing treatment is key to controlling it. It’s best to make it a routine, much like brushing your teeth or showering.
In addition to daily hygiene, an anti-inflammatory diet could help control blepharitis. Eating plenty of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids could help control some of the underlying causes and lead to healthier eyelids, especially when the core issue results from rosacea. Omega-3’s can be found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseed, or they may be taken as a supplement.
Since blepharitis is commonly associated with dandruff, controlling your dandruff could reduce symptoms. Dandruff shampoo recommended by a doctor can help, as can applying tea tree oil directly to your eyelids, be sure to take professional advice if you are unsure how to do this properly.
Some lifestyle changes may be necessary to control your blepharitis, particularly when it results from allergic reactions or other stimuli. If you commonly use eyeliner or other eye makeup, it may be time to stop or reduce usage, particularly during times when your blepharitis flares up. Additionally, avoid rubbing your eyes since that can make inflammation worse.
While the underlying causes of blepharitis are frequently unclear, it is a condition that can be easily controlled through diligent daily routines. These are inexpensive and simple to carry out, but they do require consistency in order to be successful. In situations where the condition has become more severe or when it results from a medical condition, professional treatment may be needed. Before trying any of these home remedies yourself, be sure to consult an eye specialist.
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