Blepharitis is the inflammation of the eyelids and is fairly common in children. This condition causes dryness, flakiness and soreness. Dr Annegret Dahlmann-Noor, expert ophthalmologist, explains what to do if you think your child is suffering from blepharitis.
What is blepharitis and what causes it?
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the lid margin which affects both children and adults, but tends to be more severe in children. The eyelids can become red and sore, with flakes visible at the base of the eyelashes. Some children describe that it feels as if they had something in the eye, or that the eyes sting, or that they are painful. Parents may notice that a child blinks a lot, or that they are sensitive to light and “squeeze their eyes shut”.
If your child also suffers from eczema, then blepharitis is definitely something to be aware of, as it is more common in eczema sufferers. Blepharitis occurs when the glands that secrete oil to keep the eyes moist become blocked. In children with eczema of the eyelids, both the lid skin and the lid margins can become dry, sore and irritated.
People with blepharitis can have some bacteria building up on the lid margin, and these bacteria can secrete a toxin which in turn makes the surface of the eyeball itself red and inflamed. Depending on the extent of the inflammation, the condition is called blepharitis (lid margin inflammation), blepharoconjunctivitis (the lid margin and the white part of the eye, the conjunctiva, become red and inflamed), or blepharokeratoconjunctivitis (BKC, with additional inflammation of the clear window at the front of the eye, the cornea).
How can I treat my child’s blepharitis?
The key to treating blepharitis is ‘lid hygiene’. The following measures are best carried out once a day every day to ensure that symptoms are either relieved or stop them from coming back.
- Warm compress – soak cotton wool or a clean flannel in boiled, cooled water (not too hot) and gently press onto your child’s closed eyelids for two to three minutes.
- Eyelid margin scrubbing - use a wet cotton bud or moist flannel wrapped around your index finger to scrub the lid margin and remove any flakes and debris.
- Eyelid massage – gently roll your fingers over your child’s eyelids towards the lid margin, as this can help to push out the oil from the eyelid glands which helps to moisten the surface of the eye.
On occasion, your eye doctor might also prescribe the following:
- Artificial tear drops
- Antibiotic eye drops or ointment
- Oral antibiotics
- Steroid eye drops
The symptoms often improve with the treatments, and many children eventually grow out of it altogether.
How to tell if your child might be suffering from blepharitis
- Red eyelid margin
- Sensitive to light
- Soreness of the eye
- Dry flakes on the eyelashes
If you would like to find out more, make an appointment with a specialist.