Alternative names
Eyelid inflammation

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the lash follicles at the eyelid margins, caused by excess growth of bacteria normally present on the skin.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Blepharitis is usually caused by seborrheic dermatitis or a bacterial infection and sometimes it is a combination of both. Allergies and eyelash infestation with lice may also cause blepharitis, although these causes are less common.

This condition is characterized by excess oil production in the glands near the eyelid, which creates a favorable environment for the excess growth of bacteria that are normally present on the skin. The eyelids appear red and irritated, with scales that cling to the base of the eyelashes.

Blepharitis may be associated with repeated styes and chalazia. Risk factors are seborrheic dermatitis of the face or scalp, rosacea, lice, and allergies.


  • Eyelids have the following symptoms:       o crusty       o reddened       o swollen       o itching       o burning  
  • Blinking causes a granular sensation  
  • Loss of eyelashes may occur.

Signs and tests

An examination of the eyelids in the course of an eye examination is usually sufficient to diagnose blepharitis.


The primary treatment is careful daily cleansing of the lid margins to remove the skin oils that the bacteria feed on. Baby shampoo or special cleansers may be recommended by your health care provider. Antibiotic ointments may also be helpful in controlling bacteria on the lids.

If seborrheic dermatitis or rosacea are causing the problem, seek treatment for those conditions.

Expectations (prognosis)

The probable outcome is good with treatment. Continued attention to lid hygiene may be required to prevent recurrence. Continued treatment will typically make the eyes less red and more comfortable.


  • Styes  
  • Chalazia  
  • Injury to the eye tissue (corneal ulcer) from irritation  
  • Inflammation of the surface of the eye (conjunctivitis)  
  • Loss of eyelashes  
  • Scarring of the eyelids

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms worsen or do not improve after careful cleansing of the eyelids for several days.


Cleaning eyelids carefully will help prevent blepharitis. If a specific skin condition is present, it should be treated.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Simon D. Mitin, M.D.

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