Blepharitis - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is an inflammation and matting of the eyelashes. This is usually a persistent, recurring problem for a child and starts early in childhood and may last throughout the child's life. Often, there is a secondary infection of the eye and a loss of eyelashes.

What causes blepharitis?

Blepharitis may be caused by an infection with bacteria, an abnormal production and secretion of the sebaceous glands (oil-producing glands), or it may be associated with seborrhea. Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammation of the top layers of skin, characterized by red, itchy skin that sheds scales.

What are the symptoms of blepharitis?

The following are the most common symptoms of blepharitis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Redness and scaling of the edges of the eyelids

  • Burning of the eyes

  • Your child rubbing his/her eyes

  • General discomfort of the eyes

  • Seborrheic dermatitis on your child's head or face

  • Eye drainage

How is blepharitis diagnosed?

Blepharitis is usually diagnosed based on a complete medical history and a physical examination of your child. Additional tests are not usually required to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of blepharitis

Specific treatment for blepharitis will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • The extent of the condition

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Applying warm, wet, compresses to your child's eyes for a period of approximately 15 minutes several times throughout the day

  • Instructing your child not to rub his/her eyes

  • Having your child wash his/her hands frequently

  • Antibiotic ointments for the eyes--Antibiotic ointment does not make the blepharitis clear faster, but it may help to stop the spread of the infection to other parts of the eyes, or treat a secondary infection.

  • Washing your child's face daily, including the eyes--This is done with a wet washcloth and a gentle baby shampoo. Rub your child's eyelids gently to help remove the crust.

If your child also has seborrheic dermatitis, along with blepharitis, treatment recommendations may include:

  • Rubbing mineral oil on the head of infants with a soft toothbrush, followed by a gentle shampooing

  • Special, antifungal shampoo, as prescribed by your child's physician

  • Corticosteroid cream or lotion

Severe cases of blepharitis may need to be managed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist (eye care specialists).

It is important to know that the goal of the treatment is to decrease the severity of the symptoms.