Blepharitis - Treatment 

Treating blepharitis 

Blepharitis cannot usually be cured, but the symptoms can be controlled with good eyelid hygiene.

Blepharitis is a long-term (chronic) condition. Most people experience repeated episodes, separated by periods with no symptoms.

Eyelid hygiene

It's important to clean your eyelids every day if you have blepharitis, whether or not you currently have any symptoms or are using one of the medications mentioned below. Good eyelid hygiene can help to ease your symptoms and prevent it happening again.

Follow the steps below to keep your eyelids clean:

  • Apply a warm (but not hot) compress to your closed eyelids for 5 to 10 minutes to help melt the oils that may have built-up in the glands behind your eyelids. A cloth or flannel warmed with hot water will usually be fine, although special eye packs that are heated in the microwave are available to buy.
  • Gently rub your closed eyelids vertically and horizontally with your finger or a cotton wool bud to help loosen any crusting, and push out any oils that may have built up.
  • Use a cloth or cotton bud with warm water and a small amount of cleaning solution (see below), and gently wipe the edge of your eyelids to clean them. Try to avoid touching your eye and don't clean the inside of your eyelids, as this can irritate them.

These steps should be carried out twice a day at first, then once a day when your symptoms have improved.

Try to avoid wearing eye make-up, particularly eyeliner and mascara, as this can make your symptoms worse. If you do wear eye make-up, make sure it is a type that washes off with ease so you can clean your eyelids every day more easily using the method described above.

Cleaning solution

There are many recipes for cleaning solutions and the best proportions or products to use can vary, depending on the individual.

A popular recipe involves pouring a pint of boiled water into a bowl, adding either a drop of baby shampoo or tea tree shampoo  or a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda  and allowing it to cool before using. You could also use a commercial eyelid-cleaning solution.

Your GP or pharmacist can advise you about suitable cleaning solutions, although you may need to try more than one product to find one that suits you.

Topical antibiotics

If you have blepharitis that does not respond to regular cleaning, you may be prescribed a course of antibiotic ointments, creams or eye drops (topical antibiotics). You will usually need to use these for around four to six weeks.

Ointments and creams should be rubbed gently onto the edge of your eyelids, usually several times a day at first, using either clean fingers or a cotton bud. Once your condition begins to improve, you may only need to do this once a day, usually at night after cleaning your eyelids using the method outlined above.


You should try to avoid wearing contact lenses when using antibiotic eye drops, as the drops may build-up behind the lenses and irritate your eye. Let your GP know if you want to keep wearing contact lenses, as they may recommend preservative-free drops that are less likely to irritate your eyes. 

If you are using more than one type of eye drop at the same time of day, leave at least five minutes before applying the second type of drops to your eyes.

You may experience some mild stinging or burning when applying antibiotic ointment or drops, but this should pass quickly. Do not drive if the ointment blurs your vision.

Oral antibiotics

You may be prescribed antibiotics to take by mouth once or twice a day if your blepharitis does not respond to other treatments. Oral antibiotics may also be recommended at the start of your treatment if it's thought that rosacea is aggravating your symptoms.

Most people respond well within the first few weeks of treatment, although you may need to take them for up to three months. It's important for you to finish the course of antibiotics, even if your symptoms get better.


Some oral antibiotics used to treat blepharitis have been known to make people more sensitive to the effects of the sun. Therefore, while you are taking them, you should avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight and using sun lamps or sun beds.

Oral antibiotics can also sometimes affect unborn and developing babies, as well as young children, so they are not normally used to treat children under 12 years of age or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Side effects of oral antibiotics are rare because the dose is relatively low. However, they may include vomiting, diarrhoea and, in women, yeast infections.  

Treating other conditions

Depending on the suspected cause of your condition and any other symptoms you have, you may also need additional treatment.

For example, if you have seborrhoeic dermatitis or dandruff, you may need to use an anti-dandruff shampoo on your scalp and eyebrows.

If you have dry eye syndrome, which frequently occurs alongside blepharitis, you may need separate treatment for this, such as "artificial tear" eye drops.

Page last reviewed: 22/04/2014

Next review due: 22/04/2016


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The 7 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Eyesave said on 19 October 2014

I would like to say that tee tree oil helps a lot with blepharitis but it's a very irritating factor for the eye and needs dilution. However if it is used in a specific way and in combination with some drugs it can solve the problem permanently. I don't know exactly the procedure and the drugs but I know the doctor who apply that treatment. If anybody is interested I could give him more details.
Wish health for everyone.

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teraw said on 30 September 2014

I suffer from posterior blepharitis in one eye. It is a very annoying condition and can sometimes be quite painful, not to mention how self concious you feel with swollen eyelids but often it doesn't look as bad as it feels.

I have found for me that baby shampoo just completely dries out my eyes and makes things worse. Likewise eye drops/artificial tears while providing immediate relief, the effects were very temporary (minutes at best)

The best thing I have found to work is to clean the eyelids and rims with a fairly strong salt water solution (I personally prefer it cold although I notice another commenter prefers it warm). This can sting your eyes at first and also leave a salty residue around the eye after any excess has evaporated however the relief it offers (for me) is well worth it.

It seems to be not a very well understood condition perhaps because it doesn't pose any real danger but for sufferers it can be incredibly annoying and at times make me feel quite depressed. I have suffered for years and often fall into the trap of not keeping up my cleaning routine because I haven't had a flare-up for a while then suddenly it rears its ugly head again. My GP referred me to my optician who referred me to my GP - nightmare - but hopefully I can continue to manage the symptoms.

I feel for other sufferers and hope you find something that works for you. There is a Facebook support group with lots of discussion and various methods to try to manage the symptoms, check it out.

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looseses said on 27 October 2013

I have had Blepharitis for years and have tried many
treatments with out any success I just use a little warm salt water now.

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Plum Jam said on 02 July 2013

Yes, I don't use baby shampoo as it contains sodium laureth sulfate and parfum. Also, I am allergic to the cotton wool buds I was recommended. I wasn't given much help with anything by the eye specialist.

I've found that reasonably hot water in a clean washbasin with a few drops of tea tree oil helps to keep it under control. I clean my eye lids with clean scrubbed finger tips, a different one for each eye.

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Trifern said on 07 April 2013

I have only recently been diagnosed with Blepharitis and
found that I had a very painful eye after bathing with hot
water. The Doctor didn't comment when I mentioned it.
Would Optrex be any better ?

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OkayBee said on 07 February 2013

I have heard of honey having slight antibacterial properties, but its not a good idea to put tap water in your eyes without first boiling it and letting it cool. Baby shampoo, rather than baby lotion, should be fine for use around the eyes as its formulated not to sting.

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mr cronos said on 10 November 2011

All you need to clear up any eye infections/crusty eyes is Manuka honey (number 15) a heaped teaspoon of it can be stirred into half a teacup of lukewarm water and dropped into you eye with an eye dropper.

Please, please, please do not rub baby lotion (as advised by my GP) onto your eye lids as it contains Sodium laureth sulfate (a chemical irritant, it's the chemical that scientists use on lab animals to create artificial skin irritation)

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