Have you ever woken up with your eyelids stuck together? It’s not exactly pleasant — but it’s just one symptom of blepharitis, which may affect up to 47% of individuals.
In addition to being uncomfortable and unsightly, blepharitis is closely linked to dry eye disease. It can also cause problems for your eyelashes and eyelids over time.
Blepharitis 101: Definitions and Symptoms
Blepharitis occurs when the margins of the eyelids become inflamed. It is one of the most common indicators of dry eye disease. However, these two conditions are not identical — even though they often appear together and have several overlapping symptoms.
Some researchers believe that dry eyes occur as a later stage of blepharitis when it is left unmanaged. They suggest that early management of blepharitis can prevent its symptoms from developing into what we commonly refer to as dry eye disease.
Blepharitis comes in two forms: anterior and posterior. Anterior blepharitis occurs when bacteria or dandruff forms on the scalp or eyelashes, creating an infection. Posterior blepharitis — the more common form — occurs when bacteria collects inside the eyelid.
The main symptoms of blepharitis include:
- A crusty substance that forms around the eye and can “glue” it shut while sleeping
- The eyelids (or the skin around them) turning red
- Edema (swelling) of the eyelids
- The feeling that a foreign object (such as dust or debris) is stuck in the affected eye
- Photophobia (increased sensitivity to light)
- Excessive tearing
- Itching sensations in the affected area
- General feelings of irritation in or around the affected eyelids
- Feelings of fatigue
How to Manage Blepharitis
Regular eye exams with a qualified eye doctor can help you identify signs of blepharitis early.
We now offer in our office a novel approach called ZEST (Zocular Eyelid System Treatment): The ZEST treatment is a deep and gentle exfoliation and cleaning of the eyelids. The goal of the treatment is to clean the eyelid margin which has the openings of the meibomian oil glands which release oils into the eye, crucial for a healthy tear film.
On the eyelid margin, a biofilm residue that clings to the lid and blocks the glands is what is cleared. An okra-infused solution is used to break apart this biofilm with the use of a sterilized cotton-tip applicator (ZEST-specific applicator) to gently scrub and exfoliate the lid margin to remove the debris.
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