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Ever Heard of Blepharitis?

If you haven’t heard of Blepharitis then that’s got to be good, since that means that neither you nor anyone you know has suffered from this annoying eye disease.

Fortunately if you do start to show symptoms it’s quite straightforward to treat and usually clears up in a few weeks, and basically requires some re-education in the basic laws of eye cleanliness.  If the condition does become chronic, then a management programme can be put in place to minimise its long term effects.

Blepharitis is essentially an eyelid infection that leads to inflammation and one that can affect people of all ages.

It has been associated with a weakened immune system and even with particular groups such as Ashkenazi Jews who are more prone than normal to Blepharitis in the eyes, and Pemphigus, a disorder of the mouth, but the numbers are not totally conclusive.

The immune system breakdown theory is further evidenced by recommendations that a nutritious diet that promotes an effective immune system can substantially improve resistance to recurring Blepharitis symptoms.

Types of Blepharitis

The term Blepharitis is used to describe a number of conditions all related to eyelid problems, and researchers have come up with a number of ideas to categorize them.

According to type of infection:

•    Seborrheic – as the name suggests, a dandruff-like flaking of the skin on the eyelids

•    Infectious – due to fungal infection, mite infestation or plain bacteria.

According to location:

•    Anterior – on the outside of the eyelid from where eyelashes grow

•    Posterior – within the eyelid, usually resulting from abnormal workings of the meibomian glands that produce oils necessary for eye surface lubrication

Symptoms

Essentially being an eyelid disease it’s not surprising that most of the symptoms are related to inflammation of the eyelids along with crusty eyes and flaking skin, particularly in the mornings.

Eyes may become red, blotchy and somewhat swollen, and the whole area of eyelids and lashes can become inflamed.

Causes

The main cause is presence of infectious bacteria on the eyelids, with other less likely causes being allergies and on occasion dust mites.

Treatment

Blepharitis cannot be cured – that’s the bad news.

The good news is that with a strict regime of eye hygiene, the preferred treatment, the symptoms are controlled to an extent that the disease is hardly noticed. That’s not saying of course that flare ups are not going to occur.

A simple technique of using a very weak solution of a baby shampoo applied with a cotton bud to the eyelids makes for effective cleanliness. A daily cleaning process helps to stop any build up of oils and any increase in bacteria that could follow.

Over the counter medications can prove effective in reducing symptoms, but in very chronic cases, reliance on prescribed drugs such as doxycycline or eye ointments and drops may be necessary.

A therapeutic optometrist is probably the best professional to see to manage this annoying condition.

Diet may help

Since the disease is thought to be related to immune deficiency it is essential that sufferers take Omega 3 supplements to further enhance a nutritional diet high in anti-oxidants and foods that provide natural immunity; improvements in health should be noticeable within several weeks.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

Comments (6)

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  1. Jordan miller (http://blepharitis-treatment NULL.net/blepharitis-treatment) says:

    I’ve been a victim of blepharitis for quite a while now. The funny thing is that I thought I was bit by something and that it would just go away so i didn’t even bother with it at first. Then it kept being the same when I woke up and started to affect me and college. Took me a while to find the perfect treatment as my case ended up being pretty severe.. my doctor recommended stuff but they were not working.. I finally found heat treatment and pads to help keep symptoms relieved and under control.

    • Jim (http://www NULL.optometrist NULL.com NULL.au) says:

      Keeping the eyelids and eyelashes clean without excessive friction and using a mild pad or foam cleaner is the way to go. Many people are advised to use baby shampoo which is quite harsh. The heat is imperative as well to keep the oil glands flowing. We hope to provide a new heat treatment called Lipiflow sometime soon, which even though a little expensive can keep the oil glands flowing properly for 18 months instead of have to do it with a heat pack daily. The reality is that blepharitis and chalazions can be ongoing, so constant maintenance is the best approach in most cases.

  2. Kim says:

    Just been told I have this condition started several months ago catching conjunctivitis from the kids. I over did treatment with salt water and caused keratitis and now have been told it’s belpharitis. A bit confused with it all just wish my gunky eyes that sting all the time will heal. I suddenly since treating myselff for conjunctivitis have very oily skin on my face a swell. So much for natural remedies

    • admin says:

      Hi Kim
      the problem with salt water eye baths is how much salt to use and is the water you are using sterile – it is not a good procedure to undertake on your eyes.

      The correct salt for the eye is a 0.9% salt concentration. you are best to buy sterile unpreserved saline solution – even this is not good to overdo as you will wash out all your oil from your meibomian glands which in turn can also irritate your eyes. It is really important to see someone with a special interest in dry eyes and blepharitis as many therapies are obsolete and can make the condition progressively worse. Where are you located?
      Regards
      Jim Kokkinakis

  3. Rosemarie says:

    Hi there, I live in Melbourne and would love to see someone who specialises in blepharitis if you have any recommendations? I’m also interested in the lipiflow treatment you speak of, is this now available? I ended up with blepharitis after getting a stye in each eye whilst being run down and breast feeding my newborn. My whole face swelled up and I required 2 rounds of antibiotics. I was also using salt baths to treat them and I’m wondering whether the salt baths could have caused my blepharitis? I was using Celtic salt and quite a lot… I’m curious because I still use it and if you think it’s best avoided then I will avoid it! Thanks.

    • admin says:

      Hi Rosemarie
      I am pretty sure the salt baths are not helping.
      I will recommend a practitioner in Melbourne for you in a private email.

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