What is eyelid inflammation?
Your eyelids are the folds of skin that cover your eyes and
protect them from debris and injury. Your eyelids also have lashes with short,
curved hair follicles on the edge of the lids. These follicles contain oil
glands. These oil glands can sometimes become clogged or irritated, which
triggers inflammation. This condition is known as eyelid inflammation, or blepharitis.
Causes of eyelid inflammation
The exact cause of eyelid inflammation cannot always be
determined, but different factors may increase your risk of blepharitis. For
example, you may have a higher risk if you also have dandruff on your scalp or
eyebrows. It’s also possible to have an allergic reaction to makeup or other
cosmetic products you have applied around your eye, triggering eyelid
These aren’t the only possible causes. Other
causes or risk factors for eyelid inflammation include:
- having eyelash mites or lice
- bacterial infection
- medication side effects
- a malfunctioning oil gland
Types of eyelid inflammation
There are two types of eyelid inflammation: anterior and
Anterior eye inflammation occurs on the outside of
your eye where your eyelashes are located. Dandruff on your eyebrows and
allergic reactions in your eyes can cause anterior eyelid inflammation.
Posterior eyelid inflammation occurs on the inner
corners of your eyes. A malfunctioning oil gland in your eyelash follicles
usually causes this form of inflammation.
Symptoms of eyelid inflammation
Eyelid inflammation is usually noticeable because it can
irritate your eyes and possibly affect
your vision. Symptoms of inflammation include:
- itchy eyelids
- swollen eyelids
- red or inflamed eyelids
- a burning sensation in the eyes
- oily eyelids
- a feeling that something is in or on your eyes
- red eyes
- watery eyes
- a crust on your eyelashes or in the corners of
- sensitivity to light
These symptoms can also indicate a serious eye infection.
You should treat these symptoms as an emergency and see your doctor right away.
Diagnosing eyelid inflammation
Your family doctor, an internist, or an eye doctor can
diagnose eyelid inflammation. In some cases, a physical examination of your eye
is enough to diagnose the condition. Your doctor can also closely examine your
eyelids using a specialized magnifying tool. This eye examination checks your eyes for inflammation as
well as the presence of bacteria, fungi, or viruses, which can indicate an
If there are signs of an infection, your doctor will swab
your eye and take a sample of any fluid seeping from your eyes. This sample is then
examined under a microscope.
Treating eyelid inflammation
Washing your eyes and applying a warm compress can reduce
inflammation. Depending on the severity of inflammation and whether your
inflammation is caused by an infection, your doctor may recommend other
If you don’t have an infection, your doctor may
prescribe steroids, eye drops, or ointment to reduce inflammation. Your doctor may also
prescribe lubricating eye drops to stop irritation caused by dry eyes.
A course of antibiotics may effectively treat eyelid infections.
Your doctor can prescribe antibiotic medication in pill, ointment, or liquid
drop form. Doctors often prescribe drops when an infection spreads beyond the
Potential complications of eyelid inflammation
Eyelash loss is a potential complication of eyelid
inflammation. This is caused by scarring in the hair follicles, which can make
your lashes grow incorrectly. Extensive scarring can also prevent eyelash
Common short-term complications of eyelid inflammation
include dry eyes and pink eye. Long-term complications may include:
- scarring on the eyelid
- a stye (an infected lump that appears on the
base of your eyelashes)
- chronic pink eye
The oil glands on your eyelids can also become infected and
blocked. This can cause an infection under your eyelids. An untreated eye
infection can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss. Scarring under the
eyelids can scratch the eye’s delicate surface
and cause ulcers on your cornea, which is the clear, protective outer layer of
Preventing eyelid inflammation
Eyelid inflammation can be uncomfortable, painful, and unsightly. Unfortunately,
this condition isn’t always preventable, but you can take measures to reduce
your risk of inflammation.
Make sure you wash your face regularly. This includes removing your eye
and facial makeup before going to bed. Don’t touch your eyes with dirty hands
and don’t rub itchy eyelids. Rubbing your eyes can spread an existing
infection. Also, have your eyelids checked if you notice pain, redness, or
swelling. Controlling dandruff also helps reduce inflammation. You may need a
prescription shampoo if you have severe dandruff. Ask your doctor for recommendations.