The eyelid serves as a protective covering over the delicate outer layer of the eye (cornea), helping to keep essential moisture in and harmful foreign particles out. When closed, the eyelid also distributes tears over the cornea, helping to keep it properly lubricated.
Several conditions can interfere with the function of the eyelid by causing it to become irritated, inflamed, and/or infected. In addition to discomfort, eyelid diseases can cause dry eye and vision problems.
What Are the Symptoms of Eyelid Diseases?
Although most eyelid conditions are not life-threatening or sight-threatening, they can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
- Eyelid pain and tenderness
- Itching, stinging, and burning sensations in the eye
- Redness and puffiness along the lash line
- A sandy or gritty feeling (as if a foreign body were in the eye)
- Watery, stringy, or sticky eye discharge
- Flaking and crusting at the base of the eyelashes (“eye dandruff”)
- Excessive tearing
- Sensitivity to light
What Are the Categories of Eyelid Diseases?
Eyelid diseases can be categorized as either inflammatory or mechanical:
The types of inflammatory eyelid diseases include:
- Blepharitis – Inflammation of the eyelid margin caused by a buildup of oil and bacteria
- Meibomianitis – A blockage in a tiny oil-releasing meibomian gland at the base of the eyelashes
- Nasolacrimal duct obstruction – A blockage in the tear drainage system
- Chalazion – A cyst that slowly forms under the eyelid skin due to an inflamed or blocked meibomian gland
- Stye – A sensitive red bump on the edge of the eyelid caused by a bacterial infection in an oil gland, sweat gland, or hair follicle
The types of mechanical eyelid diseases include:
- Benign essential blepharospasm (BEB) – Involuntary muscle spasms in the eyelid that cause repetitive twitching, fluttering, or blinking
- Coloboma – A notch or gap in the upper eyelid that is present at birth
- Dermatochalasis – Loose or redundant eyelid fat and skin (“bags”) that create a perpetually tired appearance and can potentially interfere with vision
- Ectropion – An outward turning of the lower eyelid margin away from its normal position against the eye
- Entropion – An inward turning of the lower eyelid margin, causing the eyelashes to touch the surface of the eye
- Facial nerve palsy – A drooping eyelid caused by damage to the seventh cranial nerve, which controls facial muscle movements
- Trichiasis – Misdirected or abnormally positioned eyelashes that grow inward against the eye
How to Prevent Eyelid Diseases
To protect the eyelids and help prevent eyelid diseases, it is important to:
- Maintain good hand hygiene.
- Avoid touching or rubbing the eyes, especially with unclean hands.
- Clean the eyelids regularly with a moist washcloth and baby shampoo.
- Avoid wearing eye makeup or use a hypoallergenic formula.
- Avoid allergens and stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are high.
- When outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that block the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
How Are Eyelid Diseases Treated?
Inflammatory eyelid conditions can often be treated by applying warm compresses and cleaning the eyelid with a moist washcloth and baby shampoo. If necessary to resolve an underlying infection, an ophthalmologist may prescribe an antibiotic. Chalazions and styes typically heal on their own within a week or two, and many nasolacrimal duct obstructions clear spontaneously.
Some mechanical eyelid conditions can be treated with surgery. For instance, dermatochalasis can interfere with vision if the excess tissue hangs over the eyelid margin. To address it, an ophthalmic surgeon may suggest a blepharoplasty (eye lift) procedure, which involves removing excess fat, skin, and muscle from the eyelid.
An eyelid growth or lesion that is causing irritation may be surgically removed. A lid lesion excision is an in-office procedure performed under local anesthesia. After numbing the eyelid, the ophthalmic surgeon uses fine microsurgical instruments to remove the lesion, then cauterizes the wound and applies antibiotic ointment.
Consult With an Ophthalmologist
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