Blepharitis is an inflammation and infection of the eyelid. The inflammation is most commonly found along the eyelash base. Blepharitis can be caused by multiple factors, including
1) an allergic reaction to make-up or cleansers
2) dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows
3) acne rosacea, a condition that causes redness and a slight puffing of the face
4) a faulty oil gland in the skin of the eyelid
5) a medication sensitivity, or
6) eyelash mites.
The symptoms of blepharitis vary from the annoying to the uncomfortable and can lead to permanent damage if left unchecked. The inflamed eyelid can alter the seal achieved when blinking, leaving the sclera or white of the eye red and uncomfortable. The skin around the eyes may flake and itch, risking having skin flakes and eyelashes falling onto the eyeball. The patient may eventually develop photophobia, or the inability to tolerate light. As the infection progresses, the patient may experience crusting around the closed eyelid overnight.
Over time, untreated blepharitis can cause the patient to lose their eyelashes, thereby reducing the protection offered by instinctive blinking. The patient may also develop chronic pink eye, a painful condition. Finally, the inflamed eyelid may act on the cornea to develop a corneal ulcer and predispose the patient to corneal infection.
There are several items the sufferer can consider to determine the source of the infection. For example, has the client changed
2) facial cleansers?
3) soap or shampoo brands?
In this assessment, the client should not leave out laundry soap changes. If any general skin discomfort is noticed, new bedding or laundry soap sensitivity may be the culprit.
Should anyone think they are developing or already suffer from blepharitis, improving the cleaning routine is the fastest way to reduce the severity of the infection. If the skin is too inflamed for soap, apply a warm wet washcloth to the area to sooth the irritated skin first thing in the morning and before bed. This will remove blockages from oil glands and allow them to release any blocked oils. Then wipe with the cloth in the direction of the lid; that is, top to bottom for the top lid, bottom to top for the bottom. This will wipe away skin scale and reduce the conditions best known for bacteria to thrive. Finally, take another clean, wet cloth and re-wipe everything to leave clean skin to air dry.
There are wipes such as Cliradex that will reduce the number of mites living on your eyelashes. It’s important to note that all humans are carrying eyelash mites. Unless you are suffering an overgrowth, there is no need to act on this infestation.
Another gentle cleansing option to try if the warm water cleanup doesn’t work is to make a gentle solution of baby shampoo, or use no tear baby soap to wash twice daily. This gentle soap will not irritate swelling or irritation around the eyes and is a great way to slough off the oils, bacteria and mites found around the eyes.
While careful cleaning of the inflamed area can reduce the discomfort of blepharitis and eventually cure the condition, some patients may need more intensive treatment. A blocked oil duct may require an antibiotic, and the nature of the inflammation may require a special cleaning by a professional along the lash line.
Warm showers are a great treatment to make sure that oil glands all over the skin surface are open and are expressing (or releasing oil) consistently. If the patient is prone to acne anywhere on the body, they may have a larger than average oil production and require more diligent hygiene. Additionally, if the patient uses moisturizing products, a non-greasy moisturizer will be needed around the eyes.
Hygienic decisions in the home are important as well. If an overgrowth of eyelash mites is determined to be the source of the blepharitis, the patient will need to discard their bedding and purchase new, or risk re-infestation. Some sources recommend washing all bedding with cedar oil (a veterinary product) for mite destruction. While this may work on canine mites, human mites are a different creature.
In fact, eyelash mites on humans come in two varieties: Demodex folliculorum, which live inside the hair follicles, and Demodex brevis, which live in the oil producing glands. They are a short-lived parasite. From egg-laying (inside the hair follicle or oil gland of the host) to death (also inside the host) is a two week cycle. If the patient is suffering from an overgrowth of mites, the treatment must last at least twelve weeks to make sure that all eggs have hatched and all mites are deceased.
To reduce the risk of blepharitis, paying general attention to the immune system of the patient is important. If the patient is suffering from a poor diet as well as poor hygiene, or has become extremely sedentary, their immune system will not function well enough to protect them from infectious bacteria commonly found on the skin.
Dietary deficiencies that can severely impact the immune system include a lack of seleniun, a deficiency of vitamins E, B6 and C, and a low level of zinc. A diet rich in green leafy vegetables, salmon, spinach, and calf’s liver can greatly reduce the risk of deficiencies of these important nutrients and allow the body to adequately fight off the over-growth of bacteria and mites found in blepharitis.
Access to regular exercise allows the patient to raise their body temperature to the point of sweating, another great way to open up the glands on the skin surface. Proper hygiene after workouts will also lessen the risk of developing blepharitis by removing expressed oil and perspiration from the skin surface and taking dead skin cells away as well.
Other lifestyle events may lead to limited immune function as patients age. The loss of life partners and geographic limitations may leave an elderly patient in a very lonely life. While older women may be more inclined to join in socialization opportunities, many elderly men have built their social circle around work, or family. Upon retirement or after the death of a spouse, many older men sink into apathy and depression which is detrimental to good immune health. A caring connection with a friend, family member, or pastoral caregiver can greatly enhance immune health in an elderly patient of either gender.
Extreme and unrelenting stress caused by workload, family problems, illness and many other factors grinds away at the immune system. Patient suffering from chronic stress that manifests in conditions like blepharitis need to build relaxation into daily routine or run the risk of permanent health damage up to an early death caused by chronic stress.
Poor sleep habits can greatly impact the function of the immune system. An overloaded body and mind, bogged down by stress and exhaustion, simply cannot fight off the bacteria that lives on the skin as well as the physical stresses that act on the body day in and day out.
If loneliness, stress, poor diet, and poor sleep are impacting your ability to fight off the toxins and infectious agents in your life, you will be chronically sick. While many people maintain a healthy balance of skin bacteria and eyelash mites with no infection or inflammation, anyone with an overloaded immune system is at risk for an over growth. Once the body is out of balance, either by being sleep deprived or nutritionally underfed, condition such as blepharitis can easily crop up.
For most healthy adults, blepharitis can be avoided with a thorough cleansing routine. However, for people with extreme dandruff, very severe acne, or compromised immune systems, the build-up of skin scale in combination with commonly occurring bacteria on the skin can result in bacterial infections. While everyone is capable of developing blepharitis, this condition is a symptom of over-growth. The over-growth manifests as skin inflammation, the loss of eyelashes due to the inflammation, and a prime breeding ground for mites to feed on the inflamed flesh and for bacteria to grown in the moisture caused by the raw, irritated flesh.
Investing the time and effort to eat healthily, get proper rest and clean your skin thoroughly from the top down in your daily shower can greatly reduce your risk of this parasite-driven condition. Should you notice inflammation along the eyelash bed, carefully clean this area with specially formulated wipes or gentle, tear-free cleansers to protect the health of your precious eyes.