My mother has incredibly bad allergies. She’s taken prednisone in order to reduce the symptoms for years – those who know the side-effects of prednisone understand how bad her allergies have been. It’s not a drug that’s prescribed chronically lightly. Some mornings, she wouldn’t be able to go into work because her eyelids were so severely inflamed that she couldn’t open them more than a slit, though the symptoms would mostly subside as the day went on. Now that I’m older, I know that her swollen eyelids were affected by blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids.

There are a plethora of things that can cause blepharitis, among them the chronic allergies my mom suffers from. The symptoms of blepharitis are pretty obvious; your eyelids become swollen and red, and skin around them may begin to flake. The eyes themselves may become watery and red, and might be light-sensitive. Your eyelashes might be crusty when you wake up, your eyelids might stick together, you’ll probably need to blink more often, and your eyelashes might start to grow in abnormally. All in all, the condition isn’t pleasant, but it’s not contagious, though if an underlying disease is causing it, that disease might be. Generally speaking, blepharitis won’t cause lasting damage to your eyes, unless abnormal growth of your eyelashes causes them to grow towards your eyelid.

Finding out what is causing your blepharitis is key to tackling the problem. Sometimes, it’s caused by excess oil production in the eyelids, causing the pores to become blocked. Your eyebrows might be producing dandruff, which is irritating the eyelid. Bacterial infections can lead to blepharitis, and some of these are infectious; that’s the exception to the “not contagious” rule. In a similar vein, the condition can also be caused by lice or eyelash mites; these same mites are being investigated as one of the possible causes of rosacea.

There are a few tips for reducing the impact of blepharitis. You can apply a warm washcloth over your eyes to reduce the swelling; be sure to carefully wash your hands before applying it, lest you aggravate symptoms. You might also clean your eyes with a washcloth or cotton swab, running it along the margins of the eyelid and the eyelashes, then changing washcloths and cleaning the other eye. When you clean your eye in this manner at least once a day, it can seriously reduce the impact of blepharitis.

You should get an eye exam done if you’re experiencing blepharitis; obviously, it’s important to figure out what’s causing the condition to occur. When the answer is clear, medications or other treatment should make the symptoms go away over a period of time; sometimes, however, the answer isn’t so clear, and your blepharitis may be a chronic condition. In these cases, following your optometrist’s instructions for cleaning and treating the eye will help you live with the condition. Speaking from experience, my mom got her blepharitis under control pretty quickly after it began to develop; some days were worse than others, but the condition is certainly one you can live and thrive with!