Blepharitis: The most common diagnosis for itchy eyes

By William Goldstein on June 03, 2011

In an eye doctor's office, not a day goes by without a patient complaining of itchy eyes. This is because itching is the most common way in which the eye indicates inflammation, regardless of the cause. Allergic conjunctivitis, blepharitis, and contact lens-related inflammation can all cause itching.
The most common cause of itching is blepharitis, which is inflammation of the eyelids and eyelashes. Patients will often indicate that the eyelids are also slightly swollen and red. They will also have crusting or mattering at the base of the eyelashes. Some patients call this 'crystalized eyelids', and they will often need a warm washrag to clean their eyelids when they wake up in the morning.
Blepharitis may be linked to allergies, normal bacteria that we all have on our eyelids, skin conditions such as excema or rosacea, or may not have an obvious cause.
The first-line therapy for blepharitis is to cleanse the eyelids daily with a dilute solution of baby shampoo. Commercial preparations, in the form of medicated pads, are available, but can be expensive. If standard lid scrubs with baby shampoo are ineffective, these may work more efficiently. Occasionally a combined antibiotic/steroid eyedrop may be needed. Rarely, antibiotic pills may be necessary if the case is particularly resistant to other modes of treatment.
Blepharitis is a long-term problem that recurs if treatment is stopped. Many patients need to perform lid hygeine every day, and still have flare-ups that require an office visit to their eye doctor

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