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Why Are My Eyelids Itchy? Common Eyelid Diseases

By guest blogger medical student Arnulfo Garza Reyes, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Have you experienced itchy eyelids? Maybe a painful bump on your eyelids or perhaps several bumps that may not be painful but are uncomfortable? These are common complaints patients have that prompt them to seek an eye doctor.

The eyelids have more functions that we can think of at first glance. The main one is to act as a barrier to protect the eye and its contents. The eyelids also have within them a collection of glands that create an oily substance called meibum. This oil will continue to flow from the lid to the eye on a daily basis and will prevent the eye from drying up and getting hurt. When this process is disturbed, complications can develop such as blepharitis or the formation of a stye or a chalazion.

Let’s talk about them one at a time.

Blepharitis, more specifically anterior blepharitis, is a fancy word for inflammation at the base of the eyelashes. This can lead to a sensation of grittiness in your eyes, crustiness of your eyelashes, as well as red, swollen, and itchy eyelids. This is believed to be more commonly due to bacteria altering the secretion of the oil we mentioned before.

  • How do we deal with it? The most important thing to do is to clean and take care of the lids appropriately. This is known as “lid hygiene”. The use of artificial tears or lubricating drops can also decrease the symptoms, and these can be bought over the counter.
  • What is lid hygiene, and why is it important? The eye is exposed to many particles, so making sure it’s clean is the key to preventing infection and disease.

– We recommend lid scrubbing, which involves using a commercially available eyelid wipe or diluted baby shampoo to gently scrub your eyelashes to ensure the structures remain clean and working properly. We recommend you consider adopting this into your daily routine when you shower as a form of prevention.

– Another method we recommend to ensure proper lid hygiene is to moisten a washcloth with warm water, place it over your eyelids, and gently massage for 5 minutes. The warmth will open the pores of the glands in charge of releasing the oil, and this may help ensure the eye maintains the right amount of hydration.

  • When do I need to see the doctor? See an eye doctor when your vision is decreased, you have pain or discomfort, if you have worsening of symptoms, or any other eye problem.

Stye

Styes form when one of the glands in charge of producing the oily substance gets clogged. Bacteria that love oil may come and create an infection, and this will give rise to the stye. It is a red and painful bump that can be found at the edge of your eyelashes.

  • How do we deal with it? These tend to resolve on their own, but a way we can aid the body to fight them is by using warm compresses and massaging the area. The warmth we apply will make blood vessels dilate, and the body can send more healing factors to the area leading to a decrease of symptoms. This can be done for 5-10 minutes up to 3 times a day. It is also important to remember that lid hygiene is your best friend to prevent these.
  • When do I need to see the doctor? If the bump remains red, swollen, and painful despite the warm compresses and massages, or if you develop swelling around the bump, or if it worsens, please visit an eye doctor right away as further treatment might be necessary.

Chalazion

Chalazion is a hard bump on an eyelid. It is typically painless and firm. You can develop them one at a time or multiple at a time (chalazia). They occur when the normal oil produced by our eyelid glands cannot drain anymore in the eye, creating a cyst-like pocket on your eyelid.

  •  How do we deal with it? A lot like styes, these can go away on their own, but many times if they are too big, they will need to be treated with a steroid injection or with a small procedure in the office to help drain them. Again, lid hygiene is your best friend to prevent recurrences of these as well.

These three conditions are seen more nowadays due to the use of masks since the warm, dirty air we breathe up our masks into our eyes can help bacteria grow faster. We want to thank you for using your mask and keeping yourself and those around you safe, but we also want to promote eye wellness therefore we cannot stress the importance of lid hygiene enough. We can help prevent these eyelid issues by remembering to use warm compresses and practicing eyelash scrubbing to maintain clean eyelids.

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