Blepharitis in Children
What is blepharitis?
Blepharitis is an inflammation in the oil glands of the eyelid. It causes swollen
eyelids and crusting around the eyelashes. Even after it’s treated and goes away,
it can often come back again and again for years. It can often lead to an infection
of the eye and a loss of eyelashes.
What causes blepharitis?
Blepharitis may be caused by either of these:
- An infection from bacteria
- An abnormal production and secretion of the oil-making (sebaceous) glands on the eye
The condition may also be linked to seborrheic dermatitis. This is an inflammation
of the top layers of skin. It causes red, itchy, scaly skin.
Who is at risk for blepharitis?
A child may be more at risk for blepharitis if he or she has:
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Not enough tears on the eyes (dry eye)
What are the symptoms of blepharitis?
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:
- Redness and scales at the edges of the eyelids
- Burning feeling in and around the eyes
- Fluid seeping from the eyelids
You may also notice your child rubbing his or her eyes.
How is blepharitis diagnosed?
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He
or she may also ask about your family’s health history. He or she will give your child
a physical exam. Tests are not usually needed to confirm the diagnosis.
How is blepharitis treated?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also
depend on how severe the condition is. Severe cases of blepharitis may need to be
treated by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist).
The goal of the treatment is to relieve the symptoms. Treatment may include:
- Applying warm, moist compresses to your child's eyes for 15 minutes at a time several
times a day
- Telling your child not to rub his or her eyes
- Having your child wash his or her hands often
You may also need to:
- Wash your child's face and eyes daily. Use a clean, wet washcloth and a gentle baby shampoo. Rub your child's eyelids gently
to remove the crusts. Use a different clean washcloth for each eye. Put the washcloths
in the laundry after using.
- Put antibiotic ointment on the eyes. The ointment doesn’t make the blepharitis go away faster, but it may help to stop
the infection from spreading to other parts of the eyes, or treat a secondary infection.
If your child also has seborrheic dermatitis, the healthcare provider may also tell
- Use an antifungal shampoo or cream
- Use a corticosteroid cream or lotion
- Softly brush your child’s head while washing with a mild baby shampoo
What are possible complications of blepharitis?
Blepharitis is a chronic condition with periods of when it goes away (remission) and
gets worse (exacerbation). Symptoms don’t often fully go away. In rare cases, severe
blepharitis can lead to vision loss or permanent changes in the eyelid edges.
Key points about blepharitis
- Blepharitis is an inflammation in the oil glands of the eyelid. It causes swollen
eyelids and crusting around the eyelashes.
- Even after it’s treated and goes away, it can often come back again and again for
- Symptoms can include redness and scales at the edges of the eyelids.
- Treatment includes applying warm, moist compresses to your child's eyes for 15 minutes
at a time several times a day. It may also include using antibiotic ointment on the
- Symptoms don’t often fully go away. In rare cases, severe blepharitis can lead to
vision loss or permanent changes in the eyelid edges.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any
new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose
for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important
if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.