Eyelid Problems (Blepharitis)

Topic Overview

One of the most common eye problems in older adults is a skin condition called blepharitis. It is often caused by bacteria (usually staphylococcus) or related to a long-term (chronic) skin condition, such as dandruff, skin allergies, or eczema. If you have blepharitis, you are more likely to get styes.


Symptoms of blepharitis include redness, irritation, itchiness, and scaliness at the edges of the eyelids. The scales may be dry or greasy. Also, eyelashes may fall out.

Exams and Tests

To diagnose this condition, the health professional will examine your eye, eyelid, and eyelashes with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope.

Treatment Overview

Blepharitis often requires treatment. You may need to take antibiotics for some types of blepharitis. Call your health professional if:

  • Your eye is painful or there is swelling or redness extending beyond the lid margins.
  • The problem is not improving after 1 week of home treatment.

Home Treatment

Regular hygiene can help you avoid blepharitis and prevent recurrences. Wash your eyelids, eyebrows, and hair daily with baby shampoo.

To wash your eyelids, put a few drops of shampoo in a cup of water, and dip a cotton ball, cotton swab, or soft washcloth in the solution. With your eyes closed, gently wipe each eyelid about 10 times horizontally away from your nose, across the lashes. Rinse well with clear water before opening your eyes.

Alternatively, if you take a shower, let warm water from the showerhead run over your closed eyes for a minute. Then put a few drops of shampoo on a washcloth and use it to scrub the lashes similar to the cotton ball method. Rinse the shampoo away.

Other Places To Get Help


American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)
P.O. Box 7424
San Francisco, CA  94120-7424
Phone: (415) 561-8500
Fax: (415) 561-8533
Web Address: www.aao.org

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is an association of medical eye doctors. It provides general information and brochures on eye conditions and diseases and low-vision resources and services. The AAO is not able to answer questions about specific medical problems or conditions.

Related Information


Author Jeannette Curtis
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Denele Ivins
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Updated March 9, 2009

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