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Eyelid inflammation (blepharitis)

Whakawaikuratanga o te kimokimo

Blepharitis is an inflammation of your eyelid. It is not an infection, and it is not contagious. It's common and it's recurrent, meaning that it keeps coming back.

Blepharitis can be treated, but not cured, and you'll normally be able to manage it yourself. It will not affect your vision.

Symptoms of blepharitis

The main symptoms of blepharitis are:

Treating blepharitis

You can usually manage blepharitis by following the steps below.

Cleaning your eyelids

Use a watered-down, non-irritant shampoo, such as baby shampoo to gently clean your eyelids and eyelashes once a day. If baby shampoo is too irritating, use ¼ tsp of baking soda (not baking powder) in a ¼ cup of recently boiled, then cooled water. To do this:

You may want to do this while you're in the shower.

Most optometrists and pharmacies sell commercial eyelid cleaners, which may work even better for you.

You can continue cleaning your eyes long term, to stop the inflammation coming back as often and to keep your eyes comfortable.

Also, try using a warm compress (a warm facecloth or heated wheat bag) held over your closed eye for one to two minutes a day.

Using lubricant eye drops

If the gritty feeling and irritation doesn't go away, you can try using lubricant eye drops. You can buy these from your optometrist or a pharmacy.

Use the eye drops when your eye feels irritated. On some days, you may hardly need to use them, but on other days you might have to use them four or five times.

Omega-3

Including more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can help to treat blepharitis by reducing inflammation and improving the secretions your eyelid glands produce.

The best sources of omega-3 in your diet are oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines (you need to eat two portions a week). There are some plant sources of omega-3, such as walnuts, linseed, flax oil and canola oil, although these may not have as strong an effect.

Other treatments

If you've tried all these steps and your symptoms do not seem to be getting any better, see your general practice team or optometrist. They may prescribe an antibiotic gel to use on your eyelid daily.

Sometimes your general practice team or optometrist will prescribe an antibiotic tablet such as doxycycline for up to three months.

An optometrist or a doctor who specialises in eye care (called an ophthalmologist), may also suggest other forms of treatment, including LipiFlow or intense pulsed light (IPL).

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2023.

Sources

Page reference: 26524

Review key: HIELI-26524