Eyelid Infections

The eyelid can be the site of infectious and inflammatory conditions called blepharitis. The source of the inflammation can vary depending on the location, on outside or underside of the eyelid, and whether it is acute (sudden) or chronic (ongoing and long term). The underlying cause is not clearly understood, but infections in the eyelid often start as a chalazion, commonly referred to as a stye. Blepharitis is a common condition and can result in irritation, mattering, itching, red eyelids and dry eyes.
Factors for the development of blepharitis vary:
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), or plugging up of the eyelid glands, occurs along the edge of each eyelid through about 30 orifices (pores) 
  • Buildup of meibomian gland secretions result in mattering and flaking 
  • Inflamed blood vessels on eyelids, often caused by ocular rosacea, is a skin condition that can affect other areas of the face 
  • Possible low-grade infection from bacteria or microscopic parasites can occur on eyelids

A chalazion occurs when the meibomian gland becomes plugged and subsequently inflamed and swollen. When a chalazion is small, it may resolve on its own. However, if the chalazion is large it may require treatment. When oily secretions become trapped in the gland, an inflammatory reaction can occur. Bacteria that normally live on the skin and eyelid can also become trapped inside the gland and cause a localized infection, resulting in increased redness, swelling and discomfort. Occasionally, the entire eyelid can become swollen if the inflammation or infection spreads beyond a single gland.

Treating Eyelid Irritation and Infections
Blepharitis can be treated in a number of ways: 
  • Warm compresses applied with a clean washcloth two to three times a day can help unclog the meibomian gland pores.
  • Lid hygiene, using a clean washcloth and a few drops of no-tears shampoo, can reduce buildup of secretions on eyelids.
  • Medical therapy, including eye drops, ointments or medications can improve blepharitis
  • Meibomian gland probing is a simple office procedure; a physician uses a small probe to open obstructed pores, which improves the ability of secretions to flow properly. To learn more about meibomian gland dysfunction, download a brochure on this procedure.

Chalazia can be treated with any or a combination of these methods: 
  • Warm compresses held against the closed lid five to ten minutes, three or four times a day can help alleviate the condition.
  • Medications, including steroid and/or antibiotic drops or ointments can be used for eye comfort.
  • If severe, a surgical incision or excision can open large chalazia that do not respond to other treatments. This is a quick procedure that is easily done in the doctor's examination room.

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