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Blepharitis

  • Overview

    Blepharitis is a persistent, recurring problem for a child that’s characterized by swelling of his eyelid. There is often a secondary infection of his eye and a loss of eyelashes.

    • Blepharitis starts early in childhood and may last throughout a child’s life.
    • Blepharitis may be caused by an infection or increased oil production in the sebaceous glands; it may also be associated with seborrhea. Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammation of the top layers of skin that’s characterized by red, itchy skin that sheds scales.
    • Complete resolution of blepharitis is difficult, so the goal of treatment is to decrease the severity of the symptoms. Severe cases may need to be managed by an ophthalmologist or eye care specialist.

    »
    Children's Hospital Boston
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

     617-355-6117
     fax: 617-713-0308

  • In-Depth

    What is blepharitis?

    Blepharitis is characterized by swelling of the eyelid. It’s usually a persistent, recurring problem for a child that starts early in childhood, and it may last throughout his or her life. Often, there is a secondary infection of the eye and a loss of eyelashes.

    What causes blepharitis?

    Blepharitis may be caused by an infection or increased oil production in the sebaceous glands; it may also be associated with seborrhea. Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammation of the top layers of skin that’s characterized by red, itchy skin that sheds scales.

  • Tests

    What are the symptoms of blepharitis?

    Each child may experience symptoms differently, but the most common signs of blepharitis include:

    • redness and scaling of the edges of the eyelids
    • burning of the eyes
    • your child rubbing his or her eyes
    • general discomfort of the eyes
    • seborrheic dermatitis on your child's head or face
    • eye drainage

    How does the doctor know it’s blepharitis?

    Blepharitis is usually diagnosed based on a complete medical history and a physical examination of your child. Additional tests are not usually required to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Because curing blepharitis is difficult, the goal of treatment is to decrease the severity of the symptoms. Severe cases of blepharitis may need to be managed by an ophthalmologist or eye care specialist.

    Treatment may include:

    • applying warm, wet compresses to your child's eyes for a period of 15 minutes, several times throughout the day
    • instructing your child not to rub his or her eyes
    • having your child wash his hands frequently
    • antibiotic ointments for the eyes, which doesn't make the blepharitis clear faster but may help to stop the infection from spreading to other parts of the eyes, or treat a secondary infection
    • washing your child's face daily — including the eyes — with a wet washcloth and a gentle baby shampoo and rubbing your child's eyelids gently to help remove the crust

    If your child has seborrheic dermatitis in addition to blepharitis, treatment recommendations may include:

    • rubbing mineral oil on your infant's head with a soft toothbrush, followed by a gentle shampooing
    • special shampoo, as prescribed by your child's physician
    • corticosteroid cream or lotion
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