If you have been diagnosed with blepharitis, a common disorder that leaves the eyelids swollen and irritated, it can be frustrating to learn that there is no cure. But it can be managed. There are steps you can take not only to relieve symptoms of a flare-up, but that may even help prevent an episode before it happens.
Practice good eye hygiene
The first key to managing blepharitis is keeping the area around your eyes clean. Especially when you consider how many times a day you rub your eyes, whether because of dust, allergens or just being tired, it’s essential that you are extra careful with the skin around your eyes.
Try this 3-step process:
First, a warm compress
Use warm water to soak cotton pads and gently apply them to your eyes. This will help make the oils in the skin easier to clear away. Leave them on for 10 minutes.
Next, a light massage
This can help push out the build-up of oils. But it’s very important to be gentle. Try using the tip of your little finger or a cotton wool bud to make small circular motions around the eyelids. It may feel strange and even a bit sore at first, but eventually you’ll notice an improvement.
Finally, a special cleaning solution
Your optometrist can provide you with a special cleaning solution to apply to your eyes, or tell you how to prepare one at home. Apply the solution using clean cotton wool, two or three times a week.
Ask a doctor about antibiotic treatments
Especially if you find that your eyes are not responding to this hygiene programme, talk to your eye specialists, who can prescribe a course of antibiotic treatments (such as tablets, creams or drops) to help. Generally these are used for 4-6 weeks, but be sure to follow the directions on the prescription carefully.
Tablets: You may be given oral antibiotics (tablets) that contain anti-inflammatory properties to help with the swelling blepharitis can cause. This is even more likely if you suffer from rosacea, a skin condition that blocks the glands and can make your blepharitis symptoms worse. Keep in mind that many antibiotics can make your skin very sensitive to sunlight (among other minor side effects), so take precautions. Finally, always complete the course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if your symptoms start to improve.
Eye drops: Especially if you have dry eye syndrome as well, prescription eye drops can help soothe your eyes and help clear up symptoms (although they may sting a bit when first applied). Remember, you must not wear contact lenses when using eye drops, as they may irritate your eyes.
Eat a Healthy Diet
It turns out that a healthy diet is good for eye health too. Research suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fats, such as those found in oily fish like tuna, sardines, herrings, mackerel or salmon, can help improve blepharitis. If you do not eat fish, you can get your omega-3 fats from other sources, including leafy greens, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and soya.
Finally, remember that blepharitis, while not pleasant, is quite common, and it’s not contagious. Follow a regime of good eye hygiene, eat a healthy diet, and speak to an eye care professional if you have any questions.