What Is Blepharitis?

  • Amy MurtaghPostgraduate Degree, Science Communication and Public Engagement, The University of Edinburgh, London

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Itchy and irritated eyelids are an unpleasant ailment to deal with. Thankfully, a lot is known about the condition, so it is highly manageable and treatable.

Blepharitis is a type of eye infection where the skin of the eyelids become inflamed due to a buildup of bacteria or other irritant. It causes a range of uncomfortable symptoms and causes the eyes and eyelids to appear:

  • Dry and flaky
  • Red and swollen
  • Little or abnormal eyelash growth 

Blepharitis is categorised into two subtypes depending on the area of the eyelid infected. The eyelid can become infected due to several factors and is common alongside other irritated skin conditions like dandruff and acne. It is also common for the infection to recur more than once after an initial case. 

Despite this, there are plenty of tips and advice to follow to get rid of your blepharitis symptoms, so there’s no need to suffer with itchy and uncomfortable eyelids for long.1


Blepharitis is a condition that causes mild to severe irritation of the eyelid, specifically along the edge of the eyelids where your eyelashes sit. You may notice that your eyelids have become dry, reddened, and sensitive to touch. These are common symptoms of blepharitis.

Blepharitis has several causes, but you may be particularly prone if you consistently put on cosmetics and forget to remove them from your eyes. Other dirt and irritants that aren't regularly washed away from the eyelids may also predispose you to the condition.

Management for blepharitis is relatively simple. Your doctor will recommend gentle cleansing of the area. However, you should still let your doctor examine the infected area to be sure of your diagnosis as following the right course of treatment is essential.

Causes of blepharitis

Most cases of blepharitis are caused by poor hygiene around the eyes and eyelids - the buildup of bacteria and other contestants such as staphylococcus bacteria (cause of acute-type/ulcerative blepharitis) or allergens lead to the inflammation of the eyelid margins.3

Other conditions that can cause blepharitis include:

Signs and symptoms of blepharitis

Signs that you may be dealing with blepharitis include:

  • Irritated or dry eyes 
  • Excessive tear streaming 
  • Bubbly tears 
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Reddened eyes or eyelids 
  • Puffy eyelids 
  • Dry skin on the eyelid/eyelashes (particularly in the morning) 

Complications of blepharitis include:

  • Obscured vision 
  • Loss of eyelashes 
  • Misdirected eyelash growth 
  • Corneal swelling
  • Formation of a lump in the eyelid due to a stye infection or oil gland congestion (chalazion
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye infection) 

Management and treatment for blepharitis

Blepharitis is relatively easy to manage and treat at home, but you should still see your doctor for a diagnosis, as they will give you tailored advice on how to deal with your particular case of blepharitis.

An important factor in treatment is to keep your eyes clean - you can do this with warm water and gentle, eye-safe soap and by keeping the eyes free of any cosmetics while you have an active case of blepharitis. Your GP may also offer you certain medications, such as steroids or antibiotics, which can either be applied to the eyes/skin to soothe irritation or taken orally.2  

Dry eyes caused by blepharitis may also be soothed by using a heated compress over the eyelids or by applying lubricating eye drops

If the cause of your blepharitis is another skin condition, your doctor will advise you on the best approach to treat that, as it may also help to lessen your blepharitis symptoms and minimise the chance of having a repeat infection.  

Blepharitis commonly affects sufferers more than once, so it is important to maintain a good skincare routine even after the symptoms of the condition disappear. 


How is blepharitis diagnosed?

Blepharitis is diagnosed by your GP or an eye doctor. They will look closely at your eyelids to determine if your symptoms are of blepharitis. They may also take a swab to collect flaky skin or oil from your eyelid to determine what has caused the infection: usually either bacteria, fungi, or an allergen.

How can I prevent blepharitis?

Blepharitis can be prevented by practising simple eyelid hygiene. This involves keeping them free from dirt and irritants and removing makeup and other daily buildups from the skin at the end of the day. It is particularly important to remove eye makeup like mascara properly, as this can contribute to or exacerbate an infection. You should also dispose of any eye makeup products you have used while having the infection as these could cause your eyelids to get re-infected.2

What are the types of blepharitis?

A case of blepharitis can be:2

  • Acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term)
  • Anterior (inflammation of the outer skin of your eyelid around the eyelashes) or posterior (inflammation is seen in the inner membrane of the eyelid near the eyeball)
  • Staphylococcal (caused by staphylococcus bacteria)
  • Seborrhoeic (inflammation of the skin)
  • Meibomian (inflammation of the oil-producing eye gland) 

The length of blepharitis infections varies and can reoccur even after improvement/banishment of symptoms. Your infection may also have more than one cause (i.e., a mixture of infection and skin/eye inflammation) and can be present at both the surface and underneath the eyelid.2 

Who is at risk of blepharitis?

You have a higher chance of suffering from blepharitis if you have: 

  • Dandruff in your hair or on your face 
  • Acne-prone skin 
  • Allergies that irritate your eyes 
  • Rosacea skin condition 

Blepharitis is non-contagious, so you won’t be at risk by simply coming into contact with someone else with the condition.

How common is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a common condition that can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.  However, if you suffer from another irritated skin condition, you may be more prone to developing blepharitis.3

When should I see a doctor?

Blepharitis can be managed at home with simple skin cleansing practices. However, you should see your doctor if you either see no improvement or your blepharitis symptoms worsen.


Blepharitis is a common, irritating, yet highly treatable eye condition. Most cases of blepharitis are caused by poor hygiene around the eyes and eyelids - the buildup of bacteria and other contestants. Don’t hesitate to visit your doctor or begin using at-home remedies, as starting treatment sooner rather than later will prevent your symptoms from worsening and reduce the chance of encountering any complications. It is additionally important to treat any other skin conditions you may have to prevent future breakouts of blepharitis and, most importantly, to maintain good skin care and cleanliness - ultimately, your eye health will thank you.    


  1. Bernardes TF, Bonfioli AA. Blepharitis. Seminars in Ophthalmology [Internet]. 2010 May [cited 2023 Sep 11];25(3):79–83. Available from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/08820538.2010.488562 
  2. Putnam CM. Diagnosis and management of blepharitis: an optometrist’s perspective. Clin Optom (Auckl) [Internet]. 2016 Aug 8 [cited 2023 Sep 12];8:71–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6095371/ 
  3. Eberhardt M, Rammohan G. Blepharitis. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Dec 4]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459305/  

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Amy Murtagh

BSc Veterinary Bioscience - Bachelors of Science, University of Glasgow

Amy is a recent graduate from Glasgow's School of Biodiversity, One Health and Veterinary Medicine with a particular interest in science communication in these subject areas.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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