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Blepharitis: Dealing With Inflamed Eyelids?

I'm wondering if you know any good long-term treatments for blepharitis? I've been receiving treatment from my doctor for almost two years: warm compresses, eyelid washing, flaxseed oil supplements, even a long-term course of doxycycline.  While this regimen has definitely helped with the dryness, it has not helped as much with the blurry vision that seems to come with it. Any advice on natural remedies?

Answer (Published 10/29/2007)

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids. It can cause watery and red eyes, a burning sensation, itchy or swollen eyelids, blurred vision, frothy tears, and loss of eyelashes. Your eyelids may stick shut in the morning because of crusting or scales on the eyelashes or on the edges of the lids.

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Blepharitis can be caused by dandruff, a bacterial infection, malfunctioning oil glands in the eyelid, or acne rosacea, a skin disorder that causes redness and inflammation. Unfortunately, blepharitis often becomes chronic, which means that the eye care routine you describe is something you’ll have to maintain indefinitely to keep the condition under control.

Warm compresses will help loosen any crusting in the eyelashes. Afterward, I recommend using a cotton-tipped swab dipped in warm water to carefully rub the edges of your eyelids to remove scales. Try to do this twice a day – in the morning and before you go to bed. If you have dandruff, you’ll need a gentle, non-drying dandruff shampoo or a tar shampoo. Use it daily or every other day until the dandruff goes away and then use it twice a week. I also recommend treating dandruff by supplementing your diet with black currant oil or evening primrose oil to restore moisture to your skin and hair. These supplements provide GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), an essential fatty acid that promotes healthy growth of skin and hair. Try doses of 500 mg twice a day; after six to eight weeks, when you start to see improvement, cut the dose in half. I also recommend these supplements for treatment of rosacea.

As part of your eye care routine, I suggest using calendula ointment to soothe the area and compresses of cool, wet tea bags (either regular or chamomile). Soak the tea bags in hot water, allow them to cool and then lie down and put them over your eyes.

Finally, following an anti-inflammatory diet can help address inflammation, part of the root cause of blepharitis, and may alleviate overall symptoms.

Fortunately, while blepharitis can be a nuisance to deal with, it isn’t a threat to your general health.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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