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What Causes Blepharitis and Everything Else You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO · Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Shienna Santelices · Updated May 21, 2021

What Causes Blepharitis and Everything Else You Need to Know

What causes blepharitis? Blepharitis is an eye condition that affects the eyelids, caused by clogged oil glands that are inflamed and which produce sticky discharge. In addition, it appears like dandruff –  sticking the eyelids together, causing redness, itchiness, and swelling. The symptoms of this condition might be uncomfortable, but it does not last long. 

Fortunately, this condition is not contagious. People of any age can have blepharitis as it is a common eye condition, and the environment plays a huge part in what causes blepharitis. There are treatments available that reduce symptoms but which are not a total cure. 

Types of Blepharitis

There are two main types of blepharitis – the anterior and posterior. However, ophthalmologists determine four more types of blepharitis. Here are the types and their corresponding appearance and symptoms:

  • Anterior blepharitis. It affects the outer part of the eye, particularly in the eyelids. Common causes include dandruff and bacteria.
  • Posterior blepharitis. It affects the inner edge of the eyelid, the part that touches the eye in particular. It is usually caused by clogged oil glands in the eyelids, as well as other common skin conditions, such as rosacea and dandruff.
  • Staphylococcal blepharitis. This type is noted by golden-yellow crusting with associated eyelid erythema and possible pink or sore eyes/conjunctivitis.
  • Seborrheic blepharitis. It is a type of blepharitis that manifests dandruff-like scales around the lids of eyelashes with mild redness.
  • Ulcerative blepharitis. It appears with hard crusts sticking around the eyelashes that cause bleeding if removed. This type may lead to cornea inflammation.
  • Meibomian blepharitis. The appearance of the eyelids is red due to the clogged oil glands, with dandruff-like scaling of the skin. 

what causes blepharitis

What Causes Blepharitis? 

The exact and specific object of what causes blepharitis has not been determined. However, here are some possible causes and conditions that are associated with this condition:

  • Excess bacteria, commonly acquired from other parts of the skin
  • Dermatitis or rosacea, dandruff flakes from scalp or eyebrow
  • Parasites, such as eyelash mites and lice from the scalp
  • Infection acquired from herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • Blocked oil glands along the eyelids
  • Allergic reaction from allergen exposure
  • People with dry eyes are prone to having blepharitis

Symptoms of Blepharitis

The signs and symptoms of blepharitis usually manifest in the morning, after sleep. These include:

  • Crusty eye discharge, similar to dandruff flakes.
  • Red and swollen eyelids, sometimes associated with itchiness and burning sensation in the eyes.
  • Eyelids sticking together which makes the eyes hard to open.
  • Blinking from time to time than usual.
  • Experiencing too much sensitivity in the light.
  • An excessive release of tears with foamy texture, resulting in watery eyes.
  • The feeling of foreign debris blocking your vision.
  • Having blurred eyesight that later improves through blinking.


Some complications might cause blepharitis, including the following:

  • Eyelash problems. Blepharitis might cause a scar in the eyelids that may result in loss or misdirection of eyelashes.
  • Eyelid skin problems. Scars may develop, affecting the direction of the eyelid. The eyelids might turn inwards or outwards from the long-term blepharitis condition.
  • Dry eye syndrome. The tear and oil glands that accumulate in the eyelid evaporates quickly, leading to other eye problems. It is a syndrome caused by a tear film instability that prevents the eyelid from getting moist.
  • Stye. It is a bacterial infection in the eyelashes that is usually painful because of the lump that grows
  • Chalazion. It occurs when there is a blockage of oil glands behind the eyelashes at the margin of the eyelid, causing inflammation and a hard bump.
  • Pink eye. Long-term blepharitis can also be the cause of pink eye episodes, as it can irritate the eye. When both conditions occur at the same time, it is called blepharoconjunctivitis. 
  • Injury to the cornea. It can be triggered by the misdirected eyelashes that will cause a sore and scar to develop in the cornea. Dry eyes can increase the risk of this condition.


Here are the other treatments that will help tone down the symptoms. These require a prescription for the medications needed. The treatments are the following:

  • Eyelid scrubs. Cleaning eyelids by scrubbing removes the dirt, mites, and bacteria that gather in the lid margins. You may consult your doctor for prescription eye cleansers. 
  • Warm compress. Place a warm compress over the eye for 15 minutes, at least 2 times a day.
  • Medications. If blepharitis originated from bacteria, doctors may prescribe eye drops, ointments, or pills. This medication will help control and reduce the swelling, redness, and irritation caused by blepharitis. However, an eye drop called artificial tear may also include in the prescription. It is available over-the-counter in drug stores.

Key Takeaways

Blepharitis is a common eye condition with uncomfortable but manageable symptoms. This is not contagious, yet treatments can only be used to reduce the effects of the symptoms, but not as a cure. Blepharitis can also be a symptom of another eye condition. Practicing good and proper hygiene may help to avoid what causes blepharitis. It may help in preventing the development of this eye condition.

Learn more about Eye Diseases here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO

Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Shienna Santelices · Updated May 21, 2021

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