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Is Blepharitis Contagious?

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Senior man rubbing his eye due to a burning feeling in it

Blepharitis is a common condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids. Tiny oil-producing glands in the eyelids help keep the eyes lubricated and healthy. 

However, when these glands become clogged or infected, it can lead to the development of blepharitis. But, blepharitis is not contagious because the bacteria that cause it are normally found on the skin, and only cause issues when they overgrow

If you suspect you may have blepharitis, visit your eye doctor for an eye exam so they can diagnose your condition and help you find the proper treatment. 

Causes of Blepharitis

In addition to inflammation, blepharitis is caused by bacteria buildup on the eyelashes. People who have blepharitis tend to have multiple types of bacteria. Your risk of getting blepharitis increases if you have the following:

  • Scalp and eyebrow dandruff
  • Rosacea 
  • Oily skin
  • Allergies 

Types of Blepharitis

There are 2 types of blepharitis, and you can have one or both together. These include:

  • Anterior blepharitis: Affects the area where your eyelashes attach to your eyelid, so the outside of your eye. It’s rare, but allergies or mites may cause anterior blepharitis.
  • Posterior blepharitis: Affects the area on the inner edge of the eyelid, which touches the eye. It results from clogged oil glands caused by rosacea and scalp dandruff. 

Symptoms of Blepharitis

Symptoms of blepharitis can be mild and are usually worse in the morning. These can include:

  • Feeling like there’s something in your eye
  • Burning or stinging
  • Excess tearing
  • Itchiness
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Redness and swelling 
  • Foamy tears
  • Dry eye
  • Crusty eyelids or eyelashes 
  • Blurry vision

Blepharitis Is Not Contagious

Blepharitis results from a buildup of bacteria or oils on your eyelids, and it’s not passed from person to person, like pink eye or a cold or flu, so it’s not contagious

It’s normal to have some bacteria living on the skin without causing any problems. And because most people have it on their skin, it’s not contagious even when there’s too much, but it can lead to infection. 

While blepharitis is not typically a serious condition and doesn’t usually cause long-term damage to the eye, it can be uncomfortable and even lead to complications if left untreated, such as:

  • Eyelashes can fall out
  • Eyelashes can grow in the wrong direction
  • Eyelid skin problems
  • Stye (painful lump on the edge of your eyelid)
  • Chalazion (a hard bump at the margin of the eyelid)
  • Chronic pink eye
  • Corneal swelling

Diagnosis & Treatment for Blepharitis

During an eye exam, your eye doctor may examine your eyes and eyelids and use a swab to collect a sample to test for bacteria, fungi, or an allergy to determine the underlying cause and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Treatment for blepharitis may include self-care measures or the following prescriptions:  

  • Antibiotics to resolve the bacterial infection
  • Steroid medication to control inflammation
  • Topical cyclosporine (Restasis) to offer relief of symptoms 
  • Treating the underlying condition
  • LipiFlow technology applies gentle heat to the eyelids to help with blocked oil glands

Young woman cleaning her face with a clean towel to prevent blepharitis

How to Prevent Blepharitis

Blepharitis is frequently a chronic condition and rarely goes away completely. For this reason, this condition may require daily attention, even with treatment. So, how do you prevent blepharitis?

The following self-care measures and steps can help you prevent blepharitis or ease symptoms:

  • Clean your eyelids daily whether or not you have symptoms
  • Avoid wearing contacts while you have symptoms
  • Avoid wearing eye makeup while you have symptoms
  • Avoid touching your eyes or face with dirty hands
  • Wash your face and hands frequently with a clean towel
  • Wash your bedsheets and pillowcases weekly
  • Avoid sharing eye or makeup products
  • Disinfect reusable lenses every day with a contact solution
  • Apply a warm compress over your eyes to loosen the deposits on your eyelids

Symptom Relief for Comfortable Vision

Blepharitis is a common condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids due to clogged or infected glands. While it is not contagious, it can be uncomfortable and lead to complications if left untreated. 

If you have concerns about your symptoms, book an appointment with the eye doctors at Queensway Optometric Centre. With regular eyelid hygiene practices and treatment from your eye doctor, you can manage your symptoms and get relief. 

Written by Lareina Yeung

Dr. Yeung graduated with her Honours Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Optometry degrees from the University of Waterloo in 2003. Upon graduation, she joined the team at Queensway Optometric Centre (QOC). In addition to her work at QOC, Dr. Yeung served on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) for 7 years, where she chaired and participated in various committees. Dr. Yeung spent her final year at the OAO as Vice President and is a recipient of the OAO President’s Award for her outstanding contribution to the profession.
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