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A to Z: Blepharitis

May also be called: Anterior Blepharitis; Posterior Blepharitis; Lid Margin Disease; Meibomian Gland Disease

Blepharitis (blef-uh-RY-tis) is swelling or inflammation of the eyelids.

More to Know

Blepharitis is a common disorder that causes red, watery eyes and itchy, burning eyelids. It can also cause crusty scales that stick to the base of the eyelashes.

Much of the time, blepharitis only causes irritation, but in some cases it can make eyelashes fall out, or cause styes, conjunctivitis (pinkeye), scarring of the eyelids, and injury to the cornea (the clear part at the front of the eyeball).

There are two types of blepharitis:

  1. Anterior blepharitis affects the front edge of the eyelid where the eyelashes are attached. It's most commonly caused by bacterial infections or skin conditions such as sebhorrheic dermatitis (dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows) or rosacea (a condition that causes facial redness).
  2. Posterior blepharitis affects the inner part of the eyelid that comes in contact with the eyeball. It's usually caused by malfunctioning oil glands in the eyelid (called meibomian glands).

Treatment for blepharitis depends on the type of blepharitis and the condition causing it. In many cases, treatment can be as simple as cleaning the eyelids regularly with a warm washcloth. Other times, lubricating eye drops or ointments may be used. If the blepharitis is caused by a bacterial infection, a doctor may prescribe antibiotic medications.

Keep in Mind

Blepharitis can be hard to treat and often occurs again, but generally it does not damage a person's vision. Treating any underlying conditions and keeping the eyelids clean can help minimize symptoms. So can limiting the use of contact lenses and eye makeup during treatment.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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