- Reference Number: HEY-023/2023
- Departments: Ophthalmology Department
- Last Updated: 31 May 2023
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This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your condition. Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet. It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and your doctor, but may act as a starting point for discussion. If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.
What is Blepharitis?
Blepharitis is a common inflammatory condition that affects the eyelids. This can cause your eyes to become red, irritated and inflamed. Dandruff like crusts can also appear on your eyelashes.
Blepharitis can be caused by a bacterial infection or may occur as a complication of skin conditions such as seborrhoeic dermatitis. This is a skin condition that can cause itchy rashes on the skin and scalp.
Blepharitis is a chronic condition, meaning that once it develops, you will probably experience repeated episodes. There is no cure. However, there are a range of treatments that have proved successful in controlling the symptoms. The most important one is to establish a daily eye cleaning routine. More severe cases of blepharitis may require the use of antibiotics.
Can there be any complications or risks?
Complications of blepharitis include dry eye syndrome, styes, cysts and conjunctivitis.
Dry eye syndrome
Dry eye syndrome occurs when the tear film does not wet the eye efficiently. This can cause irritation and watering. These symptoms can normally be successfully controlled by using eye drops that contain tear substitutes which is a liquid that is designed to mimic the properties of tears. These eye drops are available from a pharmacist over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription.
A stye is a painful swelling that develops on the external surface of the eyelid. They are caused by a bacterial infection of an eyelash follicle (located at the base of your eyelash). Mild cases can be treated by applying a hot compress to the area. More serious cases can be treated with antibiotic creams and tablets.
A meibomian cyst is swelling that occurs in the eyelids. This can happen when one of your Meibomian tear glands gets inflamed as a result of blepharitis. Cysts are normally painless unless they get infected, in which case antibiotics may be needed. Applying a hot compress to the cyst should help to reduce the swelling, although they often disappear by themselves. If a cyst persists, it can be removed during a simple surgical procedure that is carried out under local anaesthetic.
Conjunctivitis occurs when bacteria in the eyelid infect the eyes. A course of antibiotics will help to settle this down.
Treatment for Blepharitis
Developing a regular routine of eyelid hygiene is essential in the treatment of blepharitis. It is important that you clean your eyelids every day, whether or not you are experiencing symptoms. You should consider it part of your daily routine like showering or cleaning your teeth.
Effective eyelid hygiene will reduce both the severity and frequency of symptoms.
Using running tap hot water (as hot as you can stand), apply a warm compress (using clean flannel or cotton wool pads) to your closed eyelids for about 5 minutes, re-warming frequently as the compress cools. This will help loosen any crusting.
Then clean your eyelid margins and especially the lash root with the flannel wrapped around a finger and dipped in a solution of warm water. You should always use a mirror when cleaning your eyelids as this will prevent any possible damage to your eyes.
- While looking in a mirror, tilt the chin down and gently pull the lower lid down. Using the flannel gently but firmly, rub the lash line from side to side.
- Repeat for the upper lids by tilting the chin up and pulling the upper lid upwards.
Rinse the eyes with clean water afterwards to remove any trace of debris.
Alternatively, you can get lid wipes or foam for treatment of blepharitis at your local chemist over the counter which would have the same effect in cleaning the eyelids. Moreover, reusable heat eye masks are also readily available as an alternative to the homemade warm compresses.
If your blepharitis does not respond to regular cleaning, a short-course of antibiotic ointment may be recommended.
The ointment should be rubbed onto your eyelid margins using a clean finger after you have finished cleaning your eyes and/or before you go to sleep.
In some circumstances you may be given antibiotic tablets (oral antibiotics), for example, when it is clear that a skin condition is aggravating your blepharitis. Oral antibiotic may also be recommended if you do not respond to other forms of treatment.
Most people respond well after 2-4 weeks, although you will probably be required to take them for at least six weeks. It is important to finish the course, even if your symptoms get better.
Maintaining a daily eye hygiene routine is the best way of preventing episodes of blepharitis.
Please read the information leaflet. Share the information it contains with your partner and family (if you wish) so that they can be of help and support. There may be information they need to know, especially if they are taking care of you.
This leaflet was produced by the Ophthalmology Department, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and will be reviewed in May 2026.
General Advice and Consent
Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.
Consent to treatment
Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.
The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:
- you must be able to give your consent
- you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
- you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person
Information about you
We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.
We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.
Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.
If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.