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Adult Blepharitis Treatment & Management

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

Medical Care

Medical Care

A systematic and long-term commitment to a program of eyelid margin hygiene is the basis of treatment of blepharitis. Clinicians must ensure that patients recognize that the management of blepharitis is not a cure but a process, which must be carried out for prolonged periods of time. This understanding helps reduce "doctor shopping," a ceremony in which a patient goes from physician to physician, seeking some panacea for this frustrating condition.[5]

Many appropriate systems of eyelid hygiene exist, and all include variations of 3 essential steps, as follows:

  • First, application of heat to warm the eyelid gland secretions, to bring the turbid lipid glandular material to its melting point and resultant liquification, and to promote evacuation and cleansing of the secretory passages is essential. Patients commonly are directed to use soaked warm compresses and to apply them to the lids repeatedly. Warm water in a washcloth, soaked gauze pads, or microwaved, soaked cloths can be used. Many useful eyelid applicators are readily available and provide a more sterile application surface. Patients should be instructed to use extreme care and to avoid the use of excessive heat.
  • Second, the eyelid margin is washed mechanically to remove adherent material, such as scurf, collarettes, and crusting, and to clean the gland orifices. This can be completed with a warm washcloth or with cotton-tip applicators or gauze pads. Water often is mistakenly used, although some clinicians prefer that a few drops of baby shampoo be mixed in one bottle cap full of warm water to form a cleaning solution. Attention must be directed to gentle mechanical jostling or scrubbing of the eyelid margin itself, not the skin of the lids or of the bulbar conjunctival surface. Vigorous scrubbing is not necessary and may be harmful. A number of useful commercially available preparations improve this process, including Ocusoft (generic), lavender scrubs (Oasis), and hypochlorous acid (Avenova).
  • Third, an antibiotic ointment is applied to the eyelid margin after it has been soaked and scrubbed. Commonly used agents include bacitracin, polymyxin B, erythromycin, or sulfacetamide ointments. Antibiotic-corticosteroid ointment combinations can be used for short courses, although their use is less appropriate for long-term management.

Specific clinical situations may require additional treatment. Refractory cases of blepharitis often respond to oral antibiotic use. One- or two-month courses of tetracycline class agents often are helpful in reducing symptoms in patients with more severe disease. Tetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline are believed not only to reduce bacterial colonization but also to alter metabolism and reduce glandular dysfunction. The use of metronidazole and topical minocycline is being studied.

Tear film dysfunctions can prompt use of artificial tear solutions, tear ointments, and closure of the puncta. Associated conditions, such as herpes simplex, varicella-zoster, or staphylococcal skin disease, can require specific antimicrobial therapy based on culture. Seborrheic disease is often improved by the use of shampoos with selenium, although its use around the eyes is not recommended. Allergic dermatitis can respond to topical corticosteroid or Elidel therapy.

Conjunctivitis and keratitis can result as a complication of blepharitis and require additional treatment besides eyelid margin therapy. Antibiotic-corticosteroid solutions can greatly reduce inflammation and symptoms of conjunctivitis. Corneal infiltrates also can be treated with antibiotic-corticosteroid drops. Small marginal ulcers can be treated empirically, but larger, paracentral, or atypical ulcers should be scraped and specimens sent for diagnostic slides and for culture and sensitivity testing.

Recurrent bouts of inflammation and scarring from blepharitis can promote eyelid positional disease. Trichiasis and lid notching can result in keratitis and severe symptoms. These conditions often are very refractory to simple management steps. Trichiasis is treated with epilation, destruction of the follicles via electric current, laser, or cryotherapy, or with surgical excision. Entropion or ectropion can develop and complicate the clinical situation and may require referral to an oculoplastics surgeon. 


Surgical Care

Surgical care for blepharitis is needed only for complications such as chalazion formation, trichiasis, ectropion, entropion, or corneal disease.

In addition, numerous new therapies are available, including the following:

Thermal pulsation therapy: the LipiFlow device (Tear Science) applies a homogenous temperature of 40.5 degrees C to both the anterior and posterior surface of the eyelids. Pulsations then mild the infected, inspissated and dead debris from the meibomian glands.

MiBoFlo is a thermal therapy applied to the outer lids in an office setting by a qualified technician.

BlephEx is a rotating light burr applied in office by a qualified technician that debrides the capped and inflamed meibomian orifice allowing for better flow of meibum and better results from other thermally based therapies, including home compresses.

The Maskin probe is a very fine stainless steel tip applied to the thoroughly anesthetized inspisated meibomian gland orifice by an Ophthalmologist and a very light electrical current applied to facilitate the flow of meibum.



Patients with refractory acne rosacea may benefit from a consultation with a dermatologist.



Patients with poor nutrition may be at a higher risk for blepharitis.

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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