Study looks at effects of drug regimen on irritating eye condition

August 15, 2003

University of Rochester Eye Institute researchers are studying whether blepharitis, a chronic eye condition that results in itchy and tender eyelids, may be helped by a combination treatment of antibiotic-steroid eye drops.

Ophthalmologists led by Shobha Boghani, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Rochester, are comparing a regimen of three therapies of flouroquinolone antibiotics with or without steroid combination drops, and their effects on treating blepharitis.

The noncontagious condition typically affects the margin of the lid and eyelashes, Boghani says, adding that the exact prevalence is not known. It is seen more commonly with advancing age and is associated with certain skin conditions, particularly rosacea. The problem can be chronic and lead to complications such as eyelid deformities, lid ulceration and corneal inflammation.

Marginal blepharitis (inflammation of the lid margin) is classified in two categories: anterior and posterior. In cases of anterior blepharitis, the base of the eyelashes is affected. In cases of posterior blepharitis, the meibomian (oil secreting) glands in the inner eyelid margin are affected. Symptoms include itching, burning and redness around the edge of the eyelids, excessive tearing, and a sandy, gritty sensation.  Over a long period of time this can result in gradual loss of eyelashes. Staphycoccal blepharitis is one of the anterior blepharitis, resulting from a staphylococcal group of bacteria colonizing the eyelashes. This can cause greasy, easily removable scales (like dandruff) on the eyelid close to the lash line.

“Patients with blepharitis suffer from tremendous discomfort and an inability to perform daily visual tasks,” Boghani says. “Severe forms of the disease can result in inflammation of the cornea. Regular lid-cleansing and hygiene measures coupled with antibiotic-steroid treatment can vastly alleviate the discomfort, yet it is necessary for patients to remain consistent and vigilant in their treatment routine in order to ascertain a greater degree of success.”

Treatment of rosacea and seborrhic dermatitis, in addition to blepharitis, improves results, Boghani says. However, blepharitis can worsen other eye conditions that patients may have, such as dry eyes. It also prevents patients from wearing contact lenses, which can increase the risk of infection.

Volunteers accepted into the study receive an eye evaluation, which includes taking cultures to evaluate the area around the eye thought to have blepharitis. The study drugs are prescribed for twice-a-day use. Volunteers participate in the trial for 17 days, visiting the physician’s office five times during that period. Data collected during and at the completion of the study will illustrate how well each of the three therapies affects blepharitis.

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