Adam Schiff has an eye disease

Eyes: what helps with an inflammation of the eyelid?

Status: 08/01/2017 12:45 p.m. | archive
by Thomas Samboll, NDR Info

Numerous small glands on our eyelids ensure that the tear film that protects the eye remains intact. When these glands are blocked, the eye becomes dry and begins to burn and itch. Doctors then speak of inflammation of the eyelid or blepharitis. It is estimated that around one in ten people is affected in Germany.

Symptoms similar to conjunctivitis

If the sebum glands in the eyes are clogged, they become dry, itchy and burn.

The symptoms are very similar to acute conjunctivitis, but there are differences: "Conjunctivitis is more acute, less common on both sides and the eye is usually stuck together with pus," explains ophthalmologist Stefan Linke. "The patient comes and says 'I've had a red eye all of a sudden for three or four days.' This is atypical with eyelid inflammation, it takes months and you can't say exactly when it started."

Clogged sebum glands as the cause

Eyelid inflammation is caused by blocked sebum glands on the edges of the upper and lower eyelids. These so-called meibomian glands produce a fatty secretion. If this fat is missing, the eye dries out very quickly and the person concerned feels the typical burning and itching. But how does a blockage of the sebaceous glands come about? "Often it is a predisposition," explains ophthalmologist Nicole Stübiger. But there are also skin diseases, such as rosacea or neurodermatitis, that promote inflammation of the eyelid margin.

Thoroughly clean the eyelid rims every day

Thorough daily cleaning of the edge of the eye ensures that the sebum glands become free again.

As everywhere on the skin, a lot of bacteria that feed on sebum also settle on the eyes. If the meibomian glands are blocked, the bacteria can multiply and in rare cases cause serious eye diseases such as corneal inflammation. Therefore, the eyelid rims must be thoroughly massaged and cleaned at least twice every day. "Lid edge care means that you improve the drainage of fat from the glands by placing damp and above all warm cotton swabs or a damp washcloth on the eyes. Then the fat melts and the flakes of skin that clog the glands become a little softer," explains Nicole Stübiger. "Then the best thing to do is to take a cotton swab, put lukewarm water on it and run it over the edges of the eyelids. This opens the ducts of the meibomian glands and the fat can drain off better."

In addition, patients may be given a tear substitute to keep the eyes from drying out, and a local antibiotic if there are signs of further inflammation. The bottom line is that blepharitis is usually neither dangerous nor contagious.

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NDR Info | Radio visit | 08/02/2017 | 9:20 am