Eyelid Problems (Blepharitis)

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Eyelid Problems (Blepharitis)

Topic Overview

One of the most common eye problems in older adults is a skin condition called blepharitis. It is often caused by bacteria (usually staphylococcus) or related to a long-term (chronic) skin condition, such as dandruff, skin allergies, or eczema. If you have blepharitis, you are more likely to get styes.


Symptoms of blepharitis include redness, irritation, itchiness, and scaliness at the edges of the eyelids. The scales may be dry or greasy. Also, eyelashes may fall out.

Examinations and Tests

To diagnose this condition, the doctor will examine your eye, eyelid, and eyelashes with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope.

Treatment Overview

Blepharitis often requires treatment. You may need to take antibiotics for some types of blepharitis. Call your doctor if:

  • Your eye is painful or there is swelling or redness extending beyond the lid margins.
  • The problem is not improving after 1 week of home treatment.

Home Treatment

Regular hygiene can help you avoid blepharitis and prevent recurrences. Wash your eyelids, eyebrows, and hair daily with baby shampoo.

To wash your eyelids, put a few drops of shampoo in a cup of water, and dip a cotton ball, cotton swab, or soft face cloth in the solution. With your eyes closed, gently wipe each eyelid about 10 times horizontally away from your nose, across the lashes. Rinse well with clear water before opening your eyes.

Or, if you take a shower, let warm water from the showerhead run over your closed eyes for a minute. Then put a few drops of shampoo on a face cloth and use it to scrub the lashes similar to the cotton ball method. Rinse the shampoo away.

Other Places To Get Help


Canadian Ophthalmological Society
610-1525 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, ON  K1Z 8R9
Email: cos@eyesite.ca
Web Address: www.eyesite.ca/english/index.htm

The Canadian Ophthalmological Society is an association of eye doctors dedicated to helping the public take good care of their eyes and vision. This group provides educational information on eye conditions and diseases and eye safety.

P.O. Box 7424
San Francisco, CA  94120-7424
Phone: (415) 447-0213
Fax: (415) 561-8533
Email: eyesmart@aao.org
Web Address: www.geteyesmart.org

EyeSmart is a public information Web site provided by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It provides general information and brochures on eye conditions and diseases and low-vision resources and services.

National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
Information Office
31 Center Drive MSC 2510
Bethesda, MD  20892-2510
Phone: (301) 496-5248
Email: 2020@nei.nih.gov
Web Address: www.nei.nih.gov

As part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the National Eye Institute provides information on eye diseases and vision research. Publications are available to the public at no charge. The Web site includes links to various information resources.

Related Information


Other Works Consulted

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology (2008). Blepharitis. Preferred Practice Patterns. San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology. Available online: http://one.aao.org/CE/PracticeGuidelines/PPP_Content.aspx?cid=080ac46b-ea4d-4556-893a-2a63ba87ffcd.
  • Jackson WB (2008). Blepharitis: Current strategies for diagnosis and management. Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology, 43(2): 170–179. Also available online: http://article.pubs.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/RPAS/rpv?hm=HInit&calyLang=eng&journal=cjo&volume=43&afpf=i08-016.pdf.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Revised April 13, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.