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Is Blepharitis Contagious?

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A man sitting at a desk in an office with his laptop and holding his glasses in his right hand as he rubs his eyes

Blepharitis is an eye condition that presents with symptoms similar to pink eye, including redness, itchiness, and swelling. This confusion has people often wondering whether blepharitis is contagious. 

Unlike pink eye, blepharitis is not contagious. Despite that, you should still visit your eye doctor for an eye exam to properly diagnose the condition and recommend proper treatment for symptom relief. 

What Is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is an eye condition involving the inflammation of the eyelids, typically at the base of the eyelashes. While symptoms can be uncomfortable, blepharitis doesn’t cause any damage to the eye. 

Blepharitis can affect individuals of all ages, however, you can have a higher risk of getting blepharitis with the following factors:

  • Dandruff on your scalp or face
  • Rosacea (a skin condition that causes redness and bumps)
  • Oily skin
  • Allergies that affect your eyelashes

Is Blepharitis Contagious?

Blepharitis is noninfectious and thus not contagious. Unlike viral or bacterial infections such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) that can spread through direct or indirect contact, blepharitis is primarily an inflammatory condition triggered by various factors and not transmitted from one person to another. 

Causes of Blepharitis

Understanding the causes of blepharitis is crucial in dispelling myths about its contagiousness. There are several causes of blepharitis, including:

  • Bacterial overgrowth: Some bacteria on the skin are normal. However, too much bacteria on your eyelids and at the base of your eyelashes can cause blepharitis.  
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction: The meibomian glands in your eyes produce the oil layer of tears, but when these oil glands become clogged, it can lead to blepharitis.

Symptoms of blepharitis can occur suddenly (acute) or on and off for months (chronic). Causes of acute symptoms can include poor eyelid hygiene, seasonal allergies, or makeup overuse. Causes of chronic symptoms can include the following: 

  • Infections, either bacterial or viral
  • Infestations, such as Demodex mites or lash lice
  • Acute allergies or hypersensitivity to new medications, supplements, makeup, face washes, lotions, pets, or living/work environments
  • Trauma, either physical, chemical, or thermal (heat)
  • Toxicity, such as excessive preservatives, medications, or supplements

For chronic blepharitis, you can also have the following associated conditions or complications:

Types of Blepharitis

Blepharitis may manifest in 2 forms, and you can get one or both types together. The 2 types of blepharitis include:

  • Anterior blepharitis: Primarily impacts the outside front of the eyelid, where the eyelashes are attached. It’s often associated with bacterial overgrowth on your skin or dandruff and less commonly from allergies or mites.
  • Posterior blepharitis: Affects the outside of the inner eyelid, involving clogged meibomian glands, rosacea, and scalp dandruff. 

Symptoms of Blepharitis

Blepharitis can result in common symptoms and symptoms that are more serious. These can include:

  • Foreign body sensation in the eyes
  • Burning or stinging eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Red eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Foamy tears with bubbles
  • Crusty eyelids or eyelashes in the morning
  • Blurry vision
  • Eyelashes that fall out
  • Eyelashes that grow in the wrong direction

Diagnosing Blepharitis

Your eye doctor can diagnose blepharitis by discussing your symptoms and conducting an eye exam. An examination can include evaluating your eyelids, eyelashes, and oil glands before recommending the appropriate treatment. 

Managing & Preventing Blepharitis

Treatment for blepharitis depends on the cause of eyelid inflammation. With treatment, your eye doctor will also recommend management strategies for maintaining eyelid hygiene for controlling and preventing blepharitis. 

In-office treatment for blepharitis can include:

  • Lid cleaning treatment: ZEST or Zocular Eye System Treatment uses a natural okra-based gel to cleanse and debride your eyelids, offering immediate relief from Demodex. ZEST removes the biofilm from your eyelids and lashes and gently exfoliates your eyelids. It also helps improve the flow of oils from your meibomian glands.
  • Light therapy: The Equinox LLLT mask uses light and heat on the eyelids to treat meibomian gland dysfunction and blepharitis. 

Other treatments and management strategies can include:

  • Artificial tears: Lubricating eye drops or artificial tears can provide dry eye relief associated with blepharitis.
  • Eyelid hygiene: Regular eyelid hygiene is paramount. Clean the eyelids gently with a mild cleanser to remove debris and reduce bacterial load.
  • Warm compresses: Applying warm compresses to the eyes can help unclog meibomian glands, improving the flow of oils to the eyes.
  • Prescription medications: In severe cases, your eye doctor may prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications to manage symptoms.
  • Healthy lifestyle habits: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can contribute to overall eye health.

A man in an optometry clinic shaking hands with his female optometrist

Eye Health for Comfortable Vision

While blepharitis symptoms may be uncomfortable, the condition isn’t contagious or transmitted from person to person. However, it can reoccur. 

Ensure you adopt a proper eyelid hygiene practice to prevent blepharitis and visit your eye doctor regularly to check your eye health. If you have symptoms of blepharitis, book an appointment with Optical Illusions for effective in-office treatment. 

Written by Dr. Will To

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