For most people, Blepharitis is a bit of a nuisance that they learn to deal with.
If looked after, it doesn’t usually lead to any major complications.
But, for those who neglect their daily eye hygiene practices, complications can arise.
Let’s look at 7 complications of Blepharitis.
A stye is a painful bump at the base of the eyelashes, caused by a bacterial infection. Without proper eye hygiene, bacteria such as Staphylococcus can grow on the eyelid.
Blocked glands can cause the buildup of oils which creates inflammation. This can lead to itchiness and the resulting rubbing of the eyes. Touching the eyes can spread bacteria into the eyelash follicle.
This results in redness, pain and the appearance of a pimple growing on your eyelid.
It’s important NOT to pop these, as they can spread infection. Continue to maintain proper eye hygiene, including warm compress and scrubbing as appropriate. Warm compress helps to open up the glands to allow proper drainage of the stye.
Styes usually clear up within two weeks. But if symptoms do not improve within a week, be sure to see your doctor.
2) Chronic Pink-Eye/Conjunctivitis
Another obvious Blepharitis complication is the development of long-standing pink-eye. As with Styes, this occurs because bacteria begins to buildup around the eye. This leads to inflammation of the membrane on the outer eye and eyelid ( conjunctiva).
Chronic pink eye develops because the Meibomian glands become inflamed. When these glands are inflamed, the natural oils are not produced. This leaves them vulnerable to bacterial infections, and can result in Conjunctivitis.
Be mindful of replacing your make-up or eyelid cleansing solution. I managed to get chronic pink-eye by using old, dirty baby shampoo to clean my eyelids!
Antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor to help wade off chronic pink eye.
These bumps are due to a cyst forming at the oil (Meibomian) glands. Unlike a stye, these are not an infection or painful.
When the glands become blocked in Blepharitis, the oils and fats that moisten the eyes are not able to escape. So over weeks, this causes the Chalazion to grow larger, filled with the fats and oils.
Over weeks, these bumps can grow larger and REALLY don’t look good.
It’s essential to take proper early care upon the first signs. This means warm compress and massage to ease drainage of the blocked gland.
Unfortunately, I was on holidays when mine developed, so I didn’t take good, early care with warm compress and eye hygiene. This meant I had to have surgery to resolve the Chalazion.
4) Dry Eye Syndrome
I’ve mentioned many times how important the eyelid glands are in moistening the eye. They produce the important oily component that prevents tears from evaporating.
Blepharitis can cause these glands to become inflamed. This means they are not longer able to produce the oil to lubricate the eye. Dry Eye Syndrome can result.
While eye drops may help in the short-term, they will do little to address the inflammation of the glands. Aim to reduce inflammation, unblock glands and maintain proper eye hygiene.
Long standing bacterial Blepharitis can damage skin around the eyelid. This can cause eyelashes to become ingrown (Trichiasis), or fall out completely (Madarosis).
Styes form when bacteria from Blepharitis infects the eyelash follicle. If these occur frequently, damage to the follicle can prevent eyelashes from growing.
Eyelashes may also fall out because the bacteria can cause skin damage. This skin damage leads to scarring of the eyelid. When severe scarring occurs, eyelashes are not able to re-grow, or grow in the wrong direction.
To minimise the risk of this happening to you, treat any flareups properly and don’t rub the eyes so hard! Repeated hard rubbing can cause havoc to your eyelashes.
As itchy as your eyes may be – resist the temptation!
6) Damage to the Surface of the Eyeball (Cornea)
In severe cases, Blepharitis can cause damage to the surface of the eyeball (Cornea).
Persistent infection can cause death to some cells within the eyeball. This infection leads to inflammation of the cornea (Keratitis). As the body tries to fight the infection, it sends inflammatory cells to help.
Unfortunately, these cells lead to new blood vessels on the surface of the eye. But these new blood vessels do not help the eye recover well! They contribute to ongoing inflammation and itchiness. Rubbing the eyes further exacerbates this response and may cause ulcers of the cornea. In the worse cases, these ulcers can disrupt vision.
Contact lens wearers are also most likely to get corneal ulcers. It may be advised to stop wearing contact lenses if your Blepharitis is flaring up.
If adequate eye hygiene measures are adopted, these Blepharitis complications won’t be an issue. If these do arise, be mindful of the early signs to nip these in the bud.
These complications can be caused by many factors. It’s important to seek advice from your health practitioner about the ideal management.