Blepharitis

Labelled Diagram of the Eye

Labelled diagram of the structure of the retina

Blepharitis is the ophthalmological (that is, concerning the medicine of the eye) term for inflammation of the eyelids.

(That this term concerns the eyelids indicated by the prefix "blephar-" which refers to the eyelid, and is also a prefix of other terms in this section - listed on the left).


Blepharitis can manifest in the form of the rims of the eyelids becoming inflamed, making the eyes red, itchy, and sore. Blepharitis can become a chronic (persistant) condition causing discomfort and irritation, though not necessarily more serious complications. Both eyes are usually affected.

There are several forms (categories) of blepharitis, including:

  • Allergic Blepharitis may occur in response to chemicals, drugs or cosmetics in contact with the eyelids.
  • Chronic Ulcerative Blepharitis is an unpleasant condition in which yellow crusts form over ulcers at the margins of the eyelids. The eyelashes may become matted together, fall out, or become distorted.
  • Meibomian Blepharitis (also known as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction) is attributed to malfunction of the tiny meibomian glands in the eyelids, which are lie just behind the eyelashes. These generate a small amount of oily fluid which is released onto the back of the eyelids next to the eye and helps to lubricate the eye. Meibomian Blepharitis is thought to be due to the action or inaction of the meibomian glands, that can lead to inflammation of the eyelid. People with meibomian blepharitis often have dry eyes beacus the fluid they produce isn't sufficient to adequately lubricate the eye.
  • Seborrhoeic Blepharitis is associated with a skin condition called seborrhoeic dermatitis - in which affected skin becomes more oily and can become scaly. Seborrhoeic dermatitis typically causes bad dandruff and sometimes a rash on the face and upper body. This is causes by a yeast germ that lives in the sebum (oil) of human skin in most adults, some people suffer reactions to this germ that invlve inflammation of skin tissues but such conditions are not contagious (i.e. others in close proximity cannot "catch" it).
  • Squamous Blepharitis is sometimes associated with dandruff (of the scalp) as white scales of dead skin accumulate among the eye lashes.
  • Staphylococcal Blepharitis is thought to be caused by staphylococcus bacteria. This lives in low numbers on the skin without causing any harm but in some cases people, the staphylococcus bacteria a causes local infection of the eyelids, leading to blepharitis.

Patients with any form of blepharitis are generally advised not to rub or scratch their eyes as this can make the situation worse. Eyelid hygiene routines may be recommended and in some cases eyedrops may be prescribed.

More about Ophthalmology:

This section includes short definitions of many diseases, disorders, and conditions of the eyes and visual system.
For definitions of other terms in this category, choose from the list to the left (but note that this is not a complete/exhaustive list).

Other related pages include

For further information see also our pages of books about ophthalmology.

The following books may also be of interest:

The Aging Eye (Harvard Medical School)
MCQ Companion to the Eye (Textbook)
The Secret of Perfect Vision: How You Can Prevent and Reverse Nearsightedness
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About(TM) Glaucoma: The Essential Treatments and Advances That Could Save Your Sight

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