Do you often have itchy or burning eyes? Are your eyes stuck together in the morning? Do they tear a lot? Is your vision blurry or do you get frequent styes? These symptoms happen to hundreds of thousands of patients – including me, recently. The problems are due to an eyelid condition known as blepharitis.
I turned to Dr. Robert Goldberg, internationally renowned Ophthalmologist, Professor of Ophthalmology, and Chief of the Orbital and Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery Division of the Jules Stein Eye Institute in Los Angeles.
“Blepharitis is a type of eyelid irritation that is characterized by poor functioning of the glands of the eyelid,” he explains. “We do know that the meibomian glands (a special kind of sebaceous gland at the rim of the upper or lower eyelids), are responsible for the supply of meibum, an oily substance that prevents evaporation of the eye’s tear film. When these glands become clogged, they back up, and the fatty material within becomes irritating. As the back-up continues, the material inside hardens, and the inflammation around it results in a stye or a slowly developing lump that forms due to the blockage, called a chalazion.
“Our eyes contain three layers of protection,” Dr. Goldberg explains. “An outer oily layer, a middle watery layer and an inner mucus layer. If the eyelid glands are malfunctioning, the lipid layer does not form properly, and tears can more easily evaporate leading to a dry eye condition which is quite painful.”
Many of the symptoms of blepharitis mentioned above are related to this change in the tear film function. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for malfunctioning of these glands; however, the vast majority of patients can achieve comfort by following simple daily eyelid hygiene directions that in most cases will successfully treat the problem:
- Soak the eyelids for ten minutes with a hot washcloth or cotton balls, as hot as you can stand without burning the lid.
- After the eyelids are soft and refreshed, clean the debris from the glands at the bases of the eyelashes vigorously with your finger tips or a Q-tip. (You may not see it but that’s where it accumulates.) Similar to brushing your teeth, the motion in eye care is side to side. Repeat ten strokes per eyelid across the entire length of the lid.
- Use plain water or, what many claim is more effective; add one capful of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo to a glass of warm water. The mechanical cleaning is the most important step because it dislodges the caked-in material inside the gland which has been softened by the hot compresses, so now it is more easily removable, as the glands release the accumulated material.
- If the hygiene procedure is not successful there are topical medicines or oral medications that can help.
Having experienced a couple of problems with styes recently, I found Dr. Goldberg’s hygiene procedure very effective in solving my eyelid problem quickly and painlessly. To prevent yet another occurrence, I have integrated eyelid hygiene into my nightly health maintenance program. It’s easy and makes me feel good knowing how to protect the health of my eyes.