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Eyelid Inflammation: Causes, Symptoms, and Home Care

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedFebruary 29, 2024

Eyelid inflammation, also known as blepharitis, is a very common eye condition that affects over 82 million people in the US alone. This condition occurs when the eyelids become inflamed, leading to eye swelling and eye pain.

If left untreated, it can cause complications such as vision problems, making it difficult to carry out daily activities. Eyelid inflammation can develop at any age, but it is more common in young children and people over 50.

In this article, we'll explore the possible reasons behind eyelid inflammation and the symptoms you should look out for. We'll also share some home care tips that you can use to alleviate the symptoms and prevent further complications.

🔑 Key Takeaways:

  • Eyelid inflammation, also known as blepharitis, is a common eye condition that affects over 82 million people in the US alone.
  • The eyelid inflammation, also known as blepharitis, occurs when the eyelids become inflamed, leading to eye swelling and pain.
  • If left untreated, eyelid inflammation can cause complications such as vision problems, making it difficult to carry out daily activities.
  • Eyelid inflammation can develop at any age, but it is more common in young children and people over 50.
  • The causes of eyelid inflammation are categorized into three main types: seborrheic blepharitis, infectious blepharitis, and contact dermatitis blepharitis.
  • Symptoms of eyelid inflammation include redness, scaling, oily secretions, crusty material on eyelashes, morning eyelid adhesion, and excessive tearing.
  • Home care treatment for eyelid inflammation includes washing the affected area with warm water, using a warm compress, and using over-the-counter eyelid scrubs and ointments.
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What Is Eyelid Inflammation?

Eyelid inflammation is a condition in which the edge of the eyelids becomes inflamed. This inflammation involves the:

  • Lid and its dermis
  • Eyelashes
  • Tarsal conjunctiva
  • Mucocutaneous junction
  • Meibomian glands

Depending on the location of the inflammation, this condition can be classified into two types - anterior and posterior.

Anterior blepharitis is a common condition that affects the skin of the eyelid, the base of the eyelashes, and the follicles of the eyelashes. A study found that anterior blepharitis accounts for 12% of all eyecare patients seeking generalized ocular discomfort or irritation treatment. Anterior blepharitis appears to be more common in younger patients, with a mean age of 42, and in female patients, accounting for 80% of cases.

On the other hand, posterior blepharitis affects the meibomian glands and their orifices, which are located inside the eyelids. This type of blepharitis is caused by a dysfunction in the meibomian glands, leading to a lack of oil secretion and dryness of the eyes.

What Are The Causes Of Eyelid Inflammation?

Inflammation occurs due to the overgrowth of bacteria, the formation of a sticky biofilm that harbors bacterial exotoxins, and the subsequent chronic irritation caused by these factors. The causes of eyelid inflammation are categorized into three main types:

1. Seborrheic blepharitis

Seborrheic blepharitis is caused by excessive oil secretion from the sebaceous glands, leading to bacterial growth. Dry eyes are also common in 25% to 40% of patients with seborrheic blepharitis. The exact cause of seborrheic blepharitis is unknown, but it is believed to be associated with several factors, including:

  • Clogging of oil glands in the eyelids, which causes inflammation
  • Dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows
  • Bacterial infection
  • Mites in eyebrows and eyelashes
  • Rosacea - redness of the face

2. Infectious blepharitis

Infectious blepharitis is a type of bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the eyelids. This condition occurs when there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the skin around the eyelids. It is estimated that about 50% of patients are diagnosed with this condition.

The predominant bacteria responsible for infectious blepharitis is Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterium is naturally found on the skin, but when it overgrows, it can cause inflammation and irritation of the eyelids.

3. Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a condition where the meibomian glands do not function properly. This dysfunction leads to issues with the secretion of meibum, which is crucial for maintaining the tear film. The altered secretion of meibum can contribute to the development of blepharitis symptoms.

Meibum plays a significant role in slowing down tear film evaporation and smoothing the tear film to ensure a clear and even optical surface. According to a study, meibomian gland dysfunction is reported in 21.9% of people, and 8.6% of individuals suffer from blepharitis.

What Are The Symptoms Of Eyelid Inflammation?

Eyelid inflammation can cause discomfort and irritation. Typically, symptoms are most pronounced in the morning and include:

  • Redness, Scaling, and Oily Secretions: The affected eyelid may exhibit redness, scaling skin, and excess oily secretions along its edge.
  • Crusty Material on Eyelashes: Crusty material adhering to the eyelashes can be observed.
  • Morning Eyelid Adhesion: Eyelids may appear "glued together" in the morning, potentially due to overnight secretions.
  • Dry Scales or Dandruff: Dry scales or dandruff-like material may be evident on the scalp and eyebrows, indicating a correlation with eyelid inflammation.
  • Itching or Burning Sensation: Individuals may experience itching or a burning sensation in or around the affected eyelid.
  • Excessive Tearing: An increased tearing tendency, either excessive or unexplained, may indicate eyelid inflammation.
  • Sensitivity to Light: Photophobia, or sensitivity to light, could manifest eyelid inflammation.
  • Feeling of a Foreign Object: A sensation of a foreign object, such as grit or debris, in the eye may be present.
  • Ulcers or Sores at Eyelash Base: In severe cases, ulcers or sores may develop at the base of the eyelashes.
  • Sparse or Broken Eyelashes: The condition may reduce the number of eyelashes, with existing lashes becoming broken.
  • Chalazion Formation: Eyelid inflammation can contribute to the formation of chalazia, nonpainful bumps in the eyelid that may become infected (a stye).
  • Occasional Conjunctivitis: In some instances, eyelid inflammation might be associated with conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye.

What Are The Home Care Treatment For Eyelid Inflammation?

Eyelid inflammation can be challenging to treat due to its multifactorial nature and symptoms that overlap with other ocular surface disorders. However, despite its prevalence, this condition often goes untreated.

A survey found that out of 34 million adults who experienced at least one of the three most common symptoms of eyelid inflammation in the past year, only 4.5 million received treatment. Below are the home care treatments available that may help alleviate symptoms:

1. Use a Warm Compress

You can use a simple and effective remedy - a warm compress to alleviate discomfort and reduce inflammation around your eyelids. The warmth from the compress helps improve the blood flow in the area and promotes healing.

To make a warm compress, use a clean cloth or a sock filled with uncooked rice that is heated in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Once heated, gently apply the compress to your eyelids for 5 to 10 minutes, preferably twice daily. With regular use, this method can provide relief from puffiness, redness, and irritation around the eyes.

2. Wash Your Eyelids

It is recommended to clean your eyelids regularly to maintain good eye hygiene. A 50/50 mixed solution of baby shampoo and warm water is a gentle and effective way to do this. Simply gently apply the solution to your closed eyelids with a clean cloth or cotton ball. Ensure to rinse thoroughly with warm water afterward.

If you notice any crusting or debris on your eyelids, it is important to clean them carefully. You can use a Q-tip, or cotton swab dipped in the same 50/50 solution of baby shampoo and warm water. Gently swab from where the eyelashes emerge outwards, not applying too much pressure or rubbing too vigorously. This will help to remove any buildup and keep your eyelids clean and healthy.

3. Avoid Potential Irritants

If you're facing eyelid irritation, it's advisable to switch from contact lenses to glasses until the symptoms subside. This is because contact lenses can exacerbate the irritation and cause further discomfort.

Additionally, it is advisable to avoid wearing eye makeup until the irritation has cleared up completely. Eye makeup can contain potential irritants that can cause further inflammation and discomfort in the affected area. Steer clear of these irritants, and you can alleviate symptoms and expedite the healing process.

4. Take Steps to Prevent Future Irritation

It is important to take some precautions to prevent future eye irritation. Firstly, avoid touching your eyes with unwashed hands. This can expose you to harmful bacteria, potentially resulting in an infection.

Secondly, always remove your makeup before bed and dispose of old makeup products. These can harbor bacteria and irritate them. Thirdly, maintain good eyelid hygiene by cleaning your eyelids daily and applying warm compresses to soothe inflammation.

Lastly, record any recent eye care routine changes to identify potential triggers and prevent future irritation. By following these simple steps, you can keep your eyes healthy and free from irritation.

What Are The Medications To Prevent Eyelid Inflammation?

Medical professionals typically suggest using specific medications to help alleviate discomfort when dealing with persistent eyelid inflammation. According to a study, these medications can reduce inflammation and relieve the individual. Below are the recommended eyelid inflammation treatments:

1. Topical Antibiotics

Topical antibiotics are a type of medication that is applied to the lid margin for 2 to 8 weeks. Examples of topical antibiotics include Bacitracin and Erythromycin. The purpose of using these antibiotics is to provide symptomatic relief and eliminate bacteria from the lid margin. They are generally prescribed in cases of acute blepharitis and anterior blepharitis.

Topical antibiotics are a highly effective solution for treating blepharitis as they eliminate the bacteria causing the infection and alleviate inflammation.

🩹Health Note:

Following the prescribed regimen and applying the medication as directed is essential when using topical antibiotics. Failure to do so may lead to incomplete eradication of the bacteria and a recurrence of the infection. In addition, topical antibiotics may have side effects such as itching, redness, and swelling. You should consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

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2. Oral Antibiotics

When eyelid hygiene or rosacea treatment does not prove effective in treating posterior blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid), oral antibiotics may be prescribed by your healthcare provider. Tetracyclines and Macrolide Antibiotics are examples of antibiotics used to treat posterior blepharitis.

These antibiotics possess anti-inflammatory and lipid-regulating properties, which help reduce inflammation and regulate oil production in the eyelids. However, oral antibiotics are usually prescribed only in cases of posterior blepharitis and not for other types of eye infections.

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3. Topical Steroids

Topical steroids can be applied to the eye in short courses to help reduce inflammation. These medications are specifically prescribed to patients suffering from ocular inflammation, as they have been shown to provide effective anti-inflammatory effects.

Recent clinical trials have demonstrated significant improvements in symptoms among patients who have received treatment with topical steroids. If you are experiencing ocular inflammation, discussing the potential benefits of topical steroid treatment with your healthcare provider is worth discussing.

4. Tea Tree Oil Eyelid and Shampoo Scrubs

Tea Tree Oil Eyelid and Shampoo Scrubs are treatment options used for at least 6 weeks and are particularly beneficial in cases of significant Demodex infestations. These scrubs are prescribed to patients believed to have significant Demodex infestations, effectively managing the condition.

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Complications And Risks Of Eyelid Inflammation

It's important to be aware of the various complications and risks that can arise if eyelid inflammation is left untreated. Eyelid inflammation can lead to various complications and risks, such as:

  • Eyelash problems: Blepharitis can cause eyelashes to fall out, grow abnormally, or lose color.
  • Eyelid skin problems: It can lead to scarring on the eyelid and a stye, an infected lump that appears on the base of the eyelashes.
  • Corneal issues: Prolonged infection or eyelid inflammation can lead to corneal ulcers or sores on the cornea, which is the eye's clear, protective outer layer.
  • Dry eyes and pink eye: These are common short-term complications of eyelid inflammation.
  • Chronic pink eye: Blepharitis can lead to recurrent bouts of pink eye (conjunctivitis).

Wrap-Up

Managing eyelid inflammation is crucial to prevent further complications, especially if left untreated. Most cases of eyelid inflammation can be resolved with proper care and treatment, such as topical antibiotics and topical steroids.

Wash the affected area with warm water, use a warm compress, and use over-the-counter eyelid scrubs and ointments are some effective home care treatments for managing eyelid inflammation.

In case symptoms persist or worsen, it's recommended to consult with a medical professional and follow the advice of an eye specialist. Remember, early diagnosis and treatment are pivotal in effectively addressing eyelid inflammation and averting potential complications.

FAQs On Eyelid Inflammation

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What is the fastest way to heal a swollen upper eyelid?

Add ice or a cold pack wrapped in a clean, wet washcloth to the affected eye for 15 to 20 minutes to reduce eyelid swelling and pain. In addition, you can safely administer an allergy medicine or antihistamine by mouth to your child. This will help alleviate eyelid swelling and itching.

How is eyelid inflammation diagnosed?

Eyelid inflammation is diagnosed through a physical examination by a healthcare professional. They may also perform a culture or biopsy to determine the underlying cause.

Is eyelid inflammation contagious?

No, eyelid inflammation is not contagious. However, the infection may be contagious when triggered by an infectious agent such as bacteria or a virus.

Can eyelid inflammation lead to vision loss?

In rare cases, severe and untreated eyelid inflammation can lead to vision loss. However, most cases of eyelid inflammation are easily treated and do not result in any long-term vision problems.

How long does it take for eyelid inflammation of the eye to go away?

Eyelid swelling typically resolves on its own within a day or two. However, if there is no improvement within 24 to 48 hours, you should contact your primary care physician or eye doctor. Your doctor will inquire about your symptoms and examine your eye and eyelid.