Eyelids and eyelashes play an important role in keeping our eyes safe and healthy. They protect our eyes from dust and debris, and help distribute tears evenly across the front of our eyes. However, many conditions can affect the eyelids and cause uncomfortable and painful problems, from red bumps to swollen flaky lids. It is important to properly care for your eyelids and eyelashes to prevent these problems and keep the front of the eye healthy and comfortable.
What is Blepharitis?
Blepharitis is eyelid inflammation, most commonly occurring at the base of the eyelids where the eyelashes grow. Inflammation can occur on the eyelashes for many reasons, but blepharitis is most commonly caused by Meibomian gland dysfunction and poor lid hygiene. Bacterial infections, eyelid mites, dermatitis, and rosacea can also cause or worsen blepharitis. Symptoms of blepharitis include red swollen eyelids, flaky or crusty eyelash skin, or dry and burning eyes. Besides causing these uncomfortable symptoms, blepharitis can lead to a variety of other eye problems, including eyelid bumps, difficulty wearing contact lenses, and even eye infections.
This condition is usually chronic and can be difficult to treat, but steps can be taken to improve eyelid hygiene and reduce the symptoms associated with blepharitis. Applying clean warm compresses to the eyelids can reduce inflammation by preventing oils from clogging eyelid glands. Thoroughly cleaning your eyelids and eyelashes with warm water and safe soap helps remove bacteria and debris that may contribute to blepharitis. Classic dry eye treatments, including artificial tears, are oftentimes recommended to address the burning and gritty feeling that is associated with blepharitis. If your eyelid inflammation is extremely difficult to treat, your doctor may recommend a short course of oral medication to reduce the presence of bacteria and inflammation along your eyelashes.
Bumps and Lumps on the Eyelids
The presence of blepharitis oftentimes leads to other eyelid problems, including red or painful bumps. These bumps can occur on the inside or outside of the eyelids, and are usually caused by a blocked, inflamed, or infected eyelid gland. Eyelid bumps typically begin as a chalazion, a painless cyst-like bump caused by oils or lipids clogging an eyelid gland. In many cases, a chalazion will resolve on its own, and using warm compresses can speed up the healing process. If the chalazion results in a localized infection, it will result in the formation of a stye (also called a hordeolum). A stye occurs when bacteria enters a blocked gland and causes symptoms including pain, redness, and tenderness. Most styes will heal within a few days with consistent and frequent use of warm compresses. Rarely, the bacterial infection can spread throughout the eyelid and result in a more serious condition known as preseptal cellulitis. This infection can cause a worsening of symptoms including a significant increase in eyelid swelling, pain upon eyelid movements, double vision, and even a fever. Preseptal cellulitis requires treatment with oral antibiotics. If you have a concerning eyelid bump, visit one of our optometrists for a diagnosis and treatment recommendations.