Squamous blepharitis is a condition of the eyelids that involves clumping and sticking of the lids and lashes. The condition is common and not specific to any particular group of people, so it may affect individuals of either gender, any age, and all ethnicities. While the total number of cases in the United States is not known, it is estimated that nearly 40 percent of patients seeing an eye care professional may exhibit signs of blepharitis. In any case, the condition may be classified as chronic or acute, but effective treatments are known for either form of the condition.
What Is Squamous Blepharitis?
Blepharitis is a common eye condition that affects a high proportion of individuals seeking treatment from eye care professionals. The condition is an inflammatory issue that affects the base of the eyelashes. While the condition can be classified as acute or chronic, the most common form of the condition is chronic adult blepharitis. If the condition is acute, we often describe it as a bacterial or viral infection.
Where Does It Occur?
Squamous blepharitis may occur on any part of the lid and is also described by its location. If it impacts the top, outer side of the front eyelids, we know it as anterior blepharitis. This form of the condition is similar to that of seborrheic dermatitis of the face or scalp. If the condition affects the underside of the front lids – the moist side near the eye and lashes – we know it as posterior blepharitis. This form of the condition is similar to the anterior version; however, it specifically affects the small glands that secrete the oily, lubricating substance onto the eye.
What Are the Symptoms?
The most common signs of the condition are redness and stickiness of the eyelid. Squamous blepharitis also typically causes the clumping of scaly skin near the base of the lashes. Flaking and crusting near the lids and lashes are also common and may be more prominent upon waking in the morning. Individuals with the condition also tend to experience burning, itching, or irritation of the eye as if there is a foreign substance or grittiness in the eyes. Excessive eye water, oversensitivity to light, or an intolerance to wearing contacts are also common.
This condition is typically not sight-threatening; however, it can result in decreased vision that may come and go. Blepharitis usually affects both eyes and may be marked by periods of remission when symptoms pause and flare ups when symptoms are exacerbated.
What Causes Blepharitis?
The exact cause of squamous blepharitis is somewhat unknown. Eye care professionals and researchers have identified common factors that may be associated with the condition. Contrary to popular belief, it is not poor hygiene that causes the condition. Common factors that may contribute to the condition include:
• Seborrheic dermatitis. This condition is better known as dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows. Flaking of the skin in these regions may contribute to blepharitis of the eyelids.
• Bacterial infection. A bacterial infection may also cause symptoms similar to that of blepharitis and is typically considered an acute form of the condition.
• Clogged or malfunctioning oil glands in the eyelids. When the glands in the eyelids aren’t producing oil properly, it often results in the flaking and sticking of the eyelids that is common for this condition.
• Rosacea. This condition is characterized by facial redness. This facial skin condition is a key factor that may precede blepharitis.
• Allergies. Allergies and other allergic reactions may contribute to or even cause a comorbid condition, such as blepharitis.
• Eyelash mites or lice. Mites or lice may also contribute to build up on the eyelids.
How Do We Treat Blepharitis?
Self-care and home treatment are some of the mainstays of navigating this condition and are something that should be maintained even when symptoms are in remission. In fact, self-care is the most important element of treatment, supported by help from a doctor or eye care professional.
Unfortunately, squamous blepharitis is incurable, but the following treatments are successful at managing symptoms. In addition to following specific eye hygiene practices, individuals suffering from the condition should avoid using eye cosmetics and other tools around the eyes and lids.
1. Warm compresses
Warm compresses warm and loosen the material blocking the glands and the crusts on the eyelids, making them easier to remove. A clean flannel or cotton cloth is best for use as a compress. The compress should be moistened in hot, not boiling water and placed at the edge of the eyelids. Patients should also use a separate compress for each eye.
2. Cleansing the lids
Special wipes or solution can effectively clean the lids. An eye care professional can suggest the bed option. A clean wipe or cotton ball should be dampened with the solution and used to gently clean the edges of the eyelids. Patients should also cleanse the lids twice a day.
One can use an ointment on the edges of the lids after cleaning them to keep the skin more moist and comfortable. Likewise, drops can keep the eyes moist. An optometrist can recommend the best type to address the specific issue affecting each individual with the condition.
4. Oral antibiotics
If other treatments are not effective for remedying the condition, oral antibiotics may be prescribed. Such medication may be taken by mouth for several weeks or even months. It is important to individuals continue to follow the before mentioned hygiene techniques in addition to taking oral antibiotics for the best results.
According to the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, attempting to treat the condition with hygiene and topical antibiotics first is the best solution. In the event that these remedies do not work, however, you may consider other remedies, including newer technology such as thermal pulsation or even intraocular surgery.
Squamous blepharitis is a common condition causing inflammation and flaking of the skin surrounding the eyelids and lashes. The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but it can often be effectively managed using hygiene techniques. If self-care techniques are ineffective, though, more aggressive medical remedies may be in order.