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Adult Blepharitis

  • Author: R Scott Lowery, MD; Chief Editor: John D Sheppard, Jr, MD, MMSc  more...
Updated: Dec 31, 2015


Blepharitis refers to a family of inflammatory disease processes of the eyelid(s).

Blepharitis can be divided anatomically into anterior and posterior blepharitis. Anterior blepharitis refers to inflammation mainly centered around the skin, eyelashes, and follicles, while the posterior variant involves the meibomian gland orifices, meibomian glands, and tarsal plate. Anterior blepharitis usually is subdivided further into staphylococcal and seborrheic variants.

Frequently, a considerable overlap exists in these processes in individual patients. Blepharitis often is associated with systemic diseases, such as rosacea, atopy, and seborrheic dermatitis, as well as ocular diseases, such as dry eye syndromes, chalazion, trichiasis, conjunctivitis, and keratitis.



The pathophysiology of blepharitis frequently involves bacterial colonization of the eyelids. This results in direct microbial invasion of tissues, immune system–mediated damage, or damage caused by the production of bacterial toxins, waste products, and enzymes. Colonization of the lid margin is increased in the presence of seborrheic dermatitis or meibomian gland dysfunction. 




United States

Blepharitis is a common eye disorder in the United States and throughout the world. Based on Lemp et al’s estimate that 86% of all patients with dry eyes have concomitant blepharitis, more than 25 million Americans suffer from blepharitis.[1]


The exact association between blepharitis and mortality is not known, but diseases with known mortality, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, may have blepharitis as part of their constellation of findings. Associated morbidity includes loss of visual function, well-being, and ability to carry out daily life activities. The disease process can result in damage to the lids with trichiasis, notching entropion, and ectropion. Corneal damage can result in inflammation, scarring, loss of surface smoothness, irregular astigmatism, and loss of optical clarity. If severe inflammation develops, corneal perforation can occur. 


No known studies demonstrate racial differences in the incidence of blepharitis. Rosacea may be more common in fair-skinned individuals, although this finding may be only because it is more easily and frequently diagnosed in these individuals.


No well-designed studies of differences in the incidence and clinical features of blepharitis between the sexes have been found.


Seborrheic blepharitis is more common in an older age group. The apparent mean age is 50 years.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

R Scott Lowery, MD Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine, Arkansas Children's Hospital

R Scott Lowery, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Arkansas Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Simon K Law, MD, PharmD Clinical Professor of Health Sciences, Department of Ophthalmology, Jules Stein Eye Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine

Simon K Law, MD, PharmD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, American Glaucoma Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Christopher J Rapuano, MD Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University; Director of the Cornea Service, Co-Director of Refractive Surgery Department, Wills Eye Hospital

Christopher J Rapuano, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Ophthalmological Society, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, International Society of Refractive Surgery, Cornea Society, Eye Bank Association of America

Disclosure: Serve(d) as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for: Cornea Society, Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Bio-Tissue, Shire, TearScience, TearLab<br/>Serve(d) as a speaker or a member of a speakers bureau for: Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Bio-Tissue, TearScience.

Chief Editor

John D Sheppard, Jr, MD, MMSc Professor of Ophthalmology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Clinical Director, Thomas R Lee Center for Ocular Pharmacology, Ophthalmology Residency Research Program Director, Eastern Virginia Medical School; President, Virginia Eye Consultants

John D Sheppard, Jr, MD, MMSc is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Society for Microbiology, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, American Uveitis Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Fernando H Murillo-Lopez, MD Senior Surgeon, Unidad Privada de Oftalmologia CEMES

Fernando H Murillo-Lopez, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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