Our eyelids and eyelashes play a major role in the overall health of our eyes. They protect our ocular surface from foreign objects and debris, secrete an essential part of our tears, and help evenly distribute our tears across the front our eyes. When our eyelids and eyelashes are not properly cared for, several forms of complications can arise, including painful bumps, severe dryness and irritation, and even dangerous infections. Here’s why healthy eyelids and eyelashes are important for good ocular health.
Blepharitis is term given to general eyelid inflammation. Blepharitis can range in severity, but the symptoms most commonly include burning eyes, flaky debris in the lashes, swollen or crusty eyelids, or a feeling of grittiness and irritation. Causes of this inflammation and the resulting uncomfortable symptoms can include Meibomian gland dysfunction, bacterial infection, Demodex mites, general dermatitis, and more. Despite there being a wide range of possible causes for blepharitis, it is well understood that proper eyelid hygiene can help reduce, if not prevent, the discomfort associated with this condition. If significant inflammation is present, your doctor may prescribe some form medicated ointment or eye drop to help reduce the inflammation and treat the root cause.
Eyelids and Bumps
Millions of glands line the eyelid margins, releasing an essential lipid into the tear film. Occasionally, these glands get blocked, infected, or inflamed. In these cases, they can become noticeably swollen. If the gland is simply blocked with no resulting infection or inflammation, a firm cyst, known as a chalazion, will form. While a chalazion can vary in size and appearance, it is typically not tender to touch, and will usually resolve over time with the use of warm compresses. If a blocked gland becomes infected or inflamed, it oftentimes results in a very red and painful bump called a hordeolum, or most commonly referred to as a stye. Some styes will resolve on their own, while others may require an antibiotic, in either an oral or an ointment form. If these bumps continue to progress, both chalazia and styes have the potential to cause a localized infection of the area around the eyes, known as preseptal cellulitis, which requires urgent treatment with oral antibiotics. If left untreated, preseptal cellulitis can turn into an even more serious and painful infection.
Protect Your Eyelids with Proper Hygiene
Eyelid hygiene is important to prevent blepharitis, chalaza, styes, and several other potentially harmful eyelid conditions. If you have been diagnosed with an eyelid condition in the past, consider using warm compresses each night, or more frequently if necessary. To perform a warm compress, use a warm washcloth or commercially prepared facemask that has a decent amount of heat (but not enough heat to damage your eyes or skin), and apply it to your closed eyelids for 10-15 minutes. The heat can help reduce the blockage of your eyelid glands and lessens the risk of gland inflammation. Doctors also frequently recommend eyelid scrubs, using commercially prepared lid wipes or properly-diluted baby shampoo and warm water. Gently scrubbing the eyelids and lashes helps to remove debris that can build up and worsen any existing eyelid conditions.