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Blepharitis is a condition where the rims of the eyelids become inflamed (red and swollen), which can result in symptoms such as:

  • burning, soreness or stinging in the eyes
  • crusty eyelashes
  • itchy eyelids

Blepharitis can be caused by a bacterial infection, or it can be a complication of a skin condition such as:

  • seborrhoeic dermatitis, which causes an itchy rash on the skin and scalp (seborrhoeic dermatitis that affects the scalp is called dandruff)
  • rosacea, which causes the face to appear red and blotchy

It is not possible to catch blepharitis from someone else who has it.

How common is blepharitis?

Blepharitis is responsible for an estimated 1 in 20 eye problems reported to GPs. It is more common in people over 50, although it can develop at any age.

Up to half of people whose blepharitis is caused by staphylococcus bacteria also have dry eye syndrome (a condition where the eyes do not produce enough tears or dry out too quickly).

See Blepharitis - complications for more information about dry eye syndrome in relation to blepharitis.


Blepharitis is a chronic (long-term) condition, which means that once it develops it can cause repeated episodes. There is no cure for blepharitis, but establishing a daily eye-cleaning routine can help control the symptoms (see Blepharitis - treatment). This will need to be continued indefinitely. More severe cases of blepharitis may require antibiotics.

Blepharitis is not usually serious. The most common complication is being unable to wear contact lenses while experiencing symptoms. Serious complications, such as sight loss, are rare, particularly if the recommended advice is followed.

Antibiotics are medicines that can be used to treat infections caused by micro-organisms, usually bacteria or fungi.

Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the body. Some can cause illness and disease and some are good for you.

Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.

Last reviewed: 09/05/2010
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Last modified: Oct 2016