Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids in which they become red, irritated and itchy and dandruff-like scales form on the eyelashes. It is a common eye disorder caused by either bacteria or a skin condition, such as dandruff of the scalp or rosacea. It affects people of all ages.

There are three components to the tear film: oil, water and mucus. These three layers must be in balance to have normally functioning tears. Without the proper combination of secretions, the tear film breaks down and becomes unstable. This causes itching, burning, grittiness and occasionally redness in your eyes.

This unstable tear film can also cause intermittent blurring of vision. The eyes may feel dry or watery, depending on the consistency of the tears. Sometimes the eyes may overflow with watery tears as the body tries to "flush" out this gritty sensation. Rarely, problems such as ulcers or scars in the cornea can be caused by blepharitis.

Doctor checking a small girl's eye.

Blepharitis can begin as early as childhood, producing crusting of eyelids, styes and, rarely, damage to the eyeball's surface. For some children, it may continue throughout life, or in others may gradually resolve. Blepharitis can also start later in life and may be related to menopause or aging. There can also be an associated dry eye which will worsen symptoms.

Blepharitis is not an infection, but it reduces the eye's ability to fight bacteria and secondary infections, or severe bacterial overgrowth may occur in some cases.

Treatment Of Blepharitis

There are a few different treatment options for blepharitis:

Warm Compresses:

You may use any of the following compresses: warm damp facecloth, hot packs, microwaveable hot pad, rice in a sock heated in the microwave. Place on eyes for at least five minutes. This should be as warm as you can tolerate without burning your eyelid. Repeat 1-5 times a day.


We also recommend a gentle massage and warm compresses as this helps get the fluids flowing. GENTLY massage with a Q-tip or a clean finger toward the eyelid margin.

Lid Scrubs/ Shampoos:

You can use lid scrubs or shampoos for crusting and matting of the eyelid lashes. Lid scrubs/shampoos can be done several times a week or even daily if necessary. The purpose of using these products is to help clear the eyelids of oily build-up. You can rub warm water and a couple of drops of baby shampoo with a cloth, clean finger, or facecloth along the lash line, then rinse. Sometimes the symptoms may worsen initially as the toxins are released. You may use lubricant eye drops or ointment after to rinse away the toxins. Proper removal of eye makeup with eye make remover is also important to avoid irritation.

Eyelid Wipes:

Tea tree oil (Cliradex®) is an all-natural, preservative-free eyelid and facial cleanser wipe. You can use eyelid and facial cleanser wipes to clean the eyelids and remove excess oily build-up. Your pharmacy or drug store may also carry other lid wipe brands.


There are many types of lubricants due to the tremendous variation in patients. There is always a period of trial and error to find which drop will work for you. Use lubricants frequently for best results. Preservative-free lubricants, such as Hylo drops or Bion tears, can be used more often (up to hourly). A humidifier can also provide relief when used at night at the bedside.

Dietary Supplements:

Omega fatty acids may also help flaxseed oil and fish oils (fresh fish twice a week). Omega Swirl for Kids is a dietary supplement of Omega-3 that tastes like a smoothie (you can find this at most health food stores, such as Community Natural Foods in Calgary).

Prescription Medications:

You can get a prescription for topical antibiotics or oral antibiotics from your ophthalmologist or family physician. Prescription medication requires monitoring. If your medication includes a steroid, it can have long-term side effects such as glaucoma and cataracts. Make sure to schedule regular appointments with your ophthalmologist or family physician for monitoring. In most cases, this will be every 1-6 months, depending on your doctor's instructions. You should not take oral antibiotics should if you know or think you may be pregnant. For other blepharitis questions, contact our office.