Introduction 

Blepharitis is a condition where the edges of the eyelids become inflamed (red and swollen). 

It is a common condition, accounting for an estimated 1 in 20 eye problems reported to GPs. Blepharitis can develop at any age, but is more common in people over 40.

Signs of blepharitis can include:

  • itchy and sore eyelids
  • eyelids that stick together and are difficult to open, particularly when you wake up
  • eyelashes that become crusty or greasy

Read more about the symptoms of blepharitis.

When to see your GP

See your GP if you are unable to control the symptoms of blepharitis with simple cleaning measures alone (see below).

Your GP can usually diagnose blepharitis based on your symptoms and an examination of your eyes. They may refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for further tests and treatment if you have severe symptoms, or initial treatment is unsuccessful.

What causes blepharitis?

Blepharitis can be caused by an infection with Staphylococcus bacteria, or as a complication of a skin condition, such as:

  • seborrhoeic dermatitis  a condition that causes the skin to become oily or flaky
  • rosacea  a condition that causes the face to appear red and blotchy

Blepharitis is not contagious. 

Read more about the causes of blepharitis.

How blepharitis is treated

Blepharitis is usually a long-term condition. Most people experience repeated episodes, separated by periods without symptoms.

Blepharitis cannot usually be cured, but a daily eyelid-cleaning routine that involves applying a warm compress  gently massaging your eyelids and wiping away any crusts  can help control the symptoms. 

More severe cases may require antibiotics that are either applied to the eye or eyelid directly, or taken as tablets.

Read more about treating blepharitis.

Complications

Blepharitis is not usually serious, although it can lead to a number of further problems.

For example, many people with blepharitis also develop dry eye syndrome (a condition where the eyes do not produce enough tears or dry out too quickly), which can cause your eyes to feel dry, gritty and sore.

Serious, sight-threatening problems are rare, particularly if any complications that develop are identified and treated quickly.

Read about the complications of blepharitis.

Blepharitis can cause the eyelashes to become crusty 

Eyelid problems

Causes of common eyelid problems, such as swollen eyelids, gritty, itchy or flaky eyelids, and droopy eyelids

Page last reviewed: 22/04/2014

Next review due: 22/04/2016