Your eye, complicated organ that it is, can sometimes have discharge. This discharge happens for a variety of reasons, but when it dries up on the eyelids or lashes, it becomes crusty and you get that itchy, greasy, sore feeling.
Crusty Eyelids or eyelashes is often thought to be a symptom of blepharitis
“In a 2009 survey, carried out in the US, 37% of patients seen by an ophthalmologist, and almost half (47%) of patients seen by an optometrist had signs of blepharitis.”
Blepharitis is an ailment that affects the area around the eyes and eyelashes causing inflammation.
An eyelid infection is considered the acute form of Blepharitis. This can be either viral or bacterial.
Chronic forms of inflammation of the eye are known as blepharitis
Although the underlying causes of blepharitis have not been found, we know that bacteria are involved. However, this does not point to poor hygiene.
There are two types of blepharitis:
- Anterior blepharitis- this condition is somewhat similar to seborrheic dermatitis in that it affects the front outside edge of the eyelid.
“…usually caused by bacteria (staphylococcal blepharitis) or dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows (seborrheic blepharitis). In rare cases, it is caused by allergies or an infestation of the eyelashes by mites or lice.” Eye Health Web
- Posterior Blepharitis: affects the moist area located right within the margin of the eyelid. It affects the Meibomian glands found there. (there are about 20-30 gland openings)
“The inflammation causes thickening of the oil secretions so that the oil does not flow as well, causing secondary dry eye and chronic inflammation, redness, thickening, and notching of the eyelid margin.” Eye Health Web
The following are the most symptoms that may indicate blepharitis or eye infection;
- Crusty eyelids- cause when discharge dries up
- Red eye or eyelids
- Swollen or puffy skin around the eyes
- Itchiness and burning sensation
- Frequent tearing but dry eyes simultaneously
- Vision blurring
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Frequent falling off of eyelashes
- Gritty, uncomfortable sensation when blinking
There are few causes of blepharitis
- Overgrowth of bacteria around the eyelids
- A result of seborrhea which is a skin condition comparable to dandruff
- Severe allergies
- Overproduction of oil
- Blocked oil glands
- Hormonal imbalance
- Uncommonly an infestation of mites or lice on the eyelashes
- Allergen exposure
- Frequent contact environmental and chemical irritants. Eg. smoke
- Scalp and body Dermatitis
- Age- likely to affect the elderly more
- Oily skin
- Germs and bacteria on hands
Chronic blepharitis has no cure yet. However, one can manage the symptoms with a variety of treatments and sometimes medication. Although symptoms improve with treatment, they often recur. However, even when severe, it is unlikely that blepharitis will become a serious condition, unless left untreated in which case you could injure your eye and cause scarring.
Using a warm compress works to help clean the eye. The heat and dampness work to soften the crusty flakes around your eyes. The heat likewise works to encourage the movement of oil from the Meibomian glands
- Take a clean cloth, wet it using warm water
- Wring it out and place it over your shut eyelids for 5 minutes
- Gently massage the eyelid borders to hasten the oil flow from the Meibomian glands.
- Use everyday
Just like the warm compress, this mix helps to loosen the debris left on the eyelid. Gently rubbing also promotes oil production and removes clogged oils from your eye glands.
- Dilute water and baby shampoo to make an eye cleanser. If there is no baby shampoo, use a regular eye cleanser or mild soap
- Take a cloth and dip it slightly into the mix
- Rub along the eyelid to remove the crustiness
- Use light pressure to rub along the eyelids
- Rinse thoroughly with warm, clean water.
Your doctor may recommend the use of some medication to aid in relieving the symptoms of blepharitis, especially in severe cases.
- Oral antibiotics for posterior blepharitis
- Antibiotic ointments
- Omega-3 supplements
- topical steroid drops- with doctor supervision
It is easy to take steps towards preventing blepharitis or crusty eyelids;
- Always remove makeup before bed
- Use a wet compress daily
- Keeping your hair clean and your scalp dandruff free
- Avoid rubbing or touching them even with clean hands
- Avoid environmental or chemical irritants such as dust and smoke
Remember to see your eye doctor at least once a year for a checkup.