Eye Health

Updated 13 February 2015

Eyelid infections

In the eyelid, either the meibomian glands along the edges of your eyelids, or the eyelash follicles can become infected, like a pimple on the eyelid.

0
In the eyelid, either the meibomian glands along the edges of your eyelids, or the eyelash follicles can become infected, like a pimple on the eyelid. Both are common, causes discomfort, looks painful but are not serious.

Blepharitis
Are your eyelids swollen, red and itchy? Are the margins of your upper and lower eyelids covered with soft, greasy scales? Are there crusting of the eyelids, sticking the eyelashes together on waking? Most probably you are suffering from blepharitis, a common, chronic bacterial infection of the meibomian glands.

Blepharitis may also be due to an allergy to cosmetics. It may accompany dry eyes, or the common skin disorder known as seborrhoeic dermatitis.

The meibomian glands become infected when oils from these glands are changed into acid-like compounds which irritate the eye and cause it to turn red. Excess oils encourages bacterial growth and skin irritation, and the formation of scales lead to more irritation.

The symptoms may move between the eyes and be of varying severity. The condition can last weeks or months and recurrences are common. There is no loss of vision.

Self treatment

  • Clean your eyelids at least twice daily with warm water, baby shampoo or a commercial preparation, or oral and topical antibiotics (prescribed by a doctor).

  • Relieve the symptoms by applying a clean, warm, damp cloth over gently closed eyelids two to four times a day for ten minutes.

  • Allergic blepharitis usually improves on its own.

See your doctor if:
The infection recurs repeatedly or gets worse. You may need an antibiotic ointment or even oral antibiotics.

Prevention
In the case of allergic blepharitis, try to identify and remove the cause of the allergy.

Stye
A stye results from infection of the root of an eyelash. It forms a red, painful and tender swelling on the edge of the eyelid and points at the base of the infected eyelash. It looks like a large pimple, and is the equivalent of a boil elsewhere on the skin.

A stye usually comes to a head and breaks open to discharge pus onto the skin within a few days, and then gradually disappears.

Styes, like pimples elsewhere, are not serious.

Self Care
Simple home treatment can help them come to a head and resolve more quickly, and a visit to the doctor is not usually necessary.

  • Apply warm compresses to the stye for 10 minutes 5 or 6 times a day until the stye comes to a head and drains. This is most easily done by dipping a clean cloth in warm water and then holding it against the eyelid. Take care not to burn the lid.

  • If you can identify the offending eyelash emerging from the point of the stye, carefully removing it with tweezers will promote drainage and hasten recovery.

  • Do not squeeze the stye before it has begun to drain spontaneously, and then only the gentlest pressure should be applied to help expel the pus.

  • Less severe styes will go away on their own without treatment.

See your doctor if

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Ask the Expert

Optometrist

Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules