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Puffy, Swollen, Red Eyelids: How to Treat Blepharitis

A communications professional from Minnesota, my passions include writing, speaking, traveling, and crafting.

What a blepharitis flare-up looks like.

What a blepharitis flare-up looks like.

I felt it coming on throughout the day. My eye was itchy and irritated. By the end of the day, my eyelid was puffy, swollen, and would barely open. I was worried it was pink eye, so I went to the doctor when things didn’t clear up by the next morning. To my relief, the doctor explained that I had blepharitis. This article will provide an overview of blepharitis including symptoms to watch out for, how to treat blepharitis, and how to prevent it from reoccurring.

What Is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is characterized by redness and swelling of the eyelid near the eyelashes. Typically this happens when the oil glands and pores are clogged by excessive oil or makeup.

As my doctor explained, blepharitis typically occurs in the older population, but it is not uncommon for younger people to get this affliction, especially if they wear makeup frequently. Older folks may get blepharitis if they have rosacea of the skin which can cause tiny skin flakes to get clogged inside the eyelid.

The most common causes of blepharitis include:

  • Dandruff or flaking of the skin into the eye.
  • Bacteria that becomes trapped in the eye.
  • Overproduction of oil glands near the eye.
  • Rosacea or other flaking skin conditions.
  • Allergies or reactions to makeup or eye products.
  • Reactions to certain medications.

What Are the Symptoms of Blepharitis?

Blepharitis may present different symptoms in different people, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Red eyes
  • Gritty or itchy sensation
  • Inability to open eye fully
  • Puffy eyes
  • Flaking skin around eyes
  • Crusty skin around eyes
  • Swollen eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Greasy or oily eyelids

Arguably the most irritating of all the symptoms is that blepharitis is not the most attractive issue to experience. It is difficult to fully open your puffy and swollen eye, making it difficult to maintain eye contact with others. Thankfully, even with these irritating symptoms, blepharitis is typically not a painful disease of the eye.

What Should I Tell My Doctor?

If your symptoms are not clearing up or are becoming increasingly irritating, it’s probably time to see a doctor to ensure you do not have another eye disease and to receive the proper treatment for blepharitis.

To prepare for your appointment:

  • Make sure to tell your doctor about all of your symptoms including when they started, how they feel, what they look like, etc . . .
  • Tell your doctor about any and all products you have used on your face and around the eye area to make sure you are not having some type of allergic reaction.
  • Document any other times you have had similar eye issues or other types of reactions to allergies or products you have had in the past.
  • Ask your doctor what the best treatment is for you and how long they think it will take to clear up.
  • Ask your clinic if the appointment and any prescriptions will be covered by your insurance.

How Can I Treat Blepharitis?

The good news about blepharitis is that it is not contagious unlike other eye diseases like pink eye. It is simply irritating to the person who experiences it and may take anywhere from 1 or 2 days to a week to fully clear up. With consistent treatment, you should begin seeing noticeable improvement within the first day or so.

So what are the best ways to clear up Blepharitis? Follow these tips below:

  1. Use a warm compress on the eye several times a day to help combat the swelling and irritation.
  2. Avoid wearing eye makeup or applying any topical ointments to the eye during flare-ups.
  3. Flush the eye with water at least twice a day to clear it from any oil or bacteria.
  4. Use prescription eye drops and ointment prescribed by your doctor.

In my experience, the best way to clear up a blepharitis outbreak is to use prescription eye drops several times a day and to apply a prescription eye ointment before going to sleep.

Ask your doctor about the following:

  • Vigamox Eye Drops: Apply just like regular eye drops up to 4 times per day.
  • Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment: Apply a thin line of the ointment to the inside of your bottom eyelid. Blink a few times to distribute the ointment across your eye. Do this before you go to bed to keep your eye closed so the ointment can take effect. The ointment also causes blurry vision and you will not be able to see clearly after applying so it’s best to do this right before your head hits the pillow.
  • A Prescription Antibiotic: In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to help clear up the infection. Typically, you’ll take it once or twice a day along with the drops and topical ointment.
Eye Drops and Ointment for treating Blepharitis

Eye Drops and Ointment for treating Blepharitis

How Can I Prevent Blepharitis From Reoccurring?

If you ever experience a blepharitis breakout, you’ll be more apt than ever to take steps to prevent a future breakout from reoccurring. Taking the following precautions can help ensure future breakouts from reoccurring.

  • Wash your makeup off with makeup wipes and a warm washcloth every night to ensure the eye area is completely free of any lingering makeup that could potentially clog your pores.
  • Avoid touching your hair or eyebrows before touching your eyes. You run the risk of depositing oils and dandruff into the eye area and clogging your oil glands.
  • Seek treatment for psoriasis or other skin conditions to prevent flaking skin from getting into your eye area.
  • Throw out any eye makeup you used right before or during a flare-up to avoid future bacterial infection.
  • Change out your eye makeup often, especially mascara. The dark tubes full of liquid can be the perfect place for bacteria to breed and spread rapidly. Consider using small travel-sized tubes of mascara instead of large tubes so you can avoid the spread of bacteria and having to throw out your hard-earned money on expensive makeup.
  • Consider storing your eye makeup in the freezer. Keeping your makeup in the freezer at sub-zero temps can kill potentially harmful bacteria that could cause future flareups.

Check out the video below for more tips on preventing eye disease.

Blepharitis can be an inconvenient and very unattractive eye issue, but by taking some easy steps for treatment and preventing flare-ups, blepharitis can quickly clear up and be one less thing you have to worry about!

Have you ever experienced a blepharitis flare-up? How did you treat or prevent it? Share your experience in the comments.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


WheelerWife (author) from Minnesota on November 09, 2014:

Hi manatita44 that's a great tip! I'll have to try that next time. Thanks for sharing.

manatita44 from london on November 09, 2014:

I use optive eyedrops.

There is also a baby shampoo that I was given to use with water, I believe. I have not used this one. My red irritable eyes come and go. I'm not too bad.