Blepharitis, Blepharoconjunctivitis, and Styes

What is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is inflammation or swelling of the edge of the eyelid. It is usually caused because the oil glands in the eyelid produce oil that is thicker than normal that causes the glands to become blocked. It can cause the eyelid redness and tearing. Blepharitis is a common cause of styes.

If the redness includes the white part of the eye (the conjunctiva), the condition is known as blepharoconjunctivitis. Symptoms include burning or irritation of the eyes.

What is a stye?

Stye is a general term for hordeolum or chalazion. A hordeolum is an infected gland along the eyelid margin. It caused pain and mild swelling and usually lasts only a few days. A chalazion is a blocked oil gland in the eyelid. When the opening of a gland is blocked, oil from the eyelid gland cannot be released. The gland gradually gets larger. It can keep getting larger until it bursts, causing redness and swelling before it goes away. Sometimes, a chalazion can stop growing, causing a firm bump without other swelling or inflammation. This is called a chronis chalazion. Chalazia (more than one chalazion) generally are not painful unless there is a secondary infection.

Is blepharitis contagious?

No, it is not.

What is the treatment for blepharitis, blepharoconjunctivitis and styes?

  • Warm compresses: Hold a warm compress over closed eyelids for ten minutes. This heats the skin and softens the oil and debris along the eyelid margins. 
  • Lid scrubs: Baby shampoo scrubs or an eyelid scrub such as OCuSOFT eyelid scrub can help soothe the inflamed area. Gently scrub the eyelid margins with a cotton ball or washcloth and baby shampoo. Aim for the base of the eyelashes. Scrubbing the eyelids lowers the amount of bacteria present and removes old skin and debris. 
  • Occasional antibiotic: Occasionally, there is an infection associated which may require an oral or topical antibiotic.

Warm compresses and eyelid scrubs can be repeated 1 to 2 times per day to prevent styes and to control blepharitis. 

What if the stye doesn’t go away?

Surgical drainage of styes is often needed if there is still a lump after the redness, swelling and discharge go away. Depending on the age of the child, surgery can be performed in the office or, more often, in the operating room. Draining a stye does not stop new styes from forming in the same or other locations. Eyelid scrubs may be needed to prevent styes in the future.

What is the long-term outlook?

Blepharitis and styes usually don’t cause serious vision problems. Sometimes blepharocpnjunctivits can spread to involve the cornea, the clear window of the eye, leading to scarring and vision loss. Make sure to visit an eye doctor if you are concerned about a stye or any eye condition.