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If Your Eyelids Are Red, Itchy and Irritated, It May Be Blepharitis: See the Home Cures MDs Advise

Waking up with some gunk in your eyes is usually nothing to worry about. The scientific name for this crust is rheum, and it forms when oil and other debris collect on your eyelids during sleep. But if that crust occurs alongside other symptoms — like red, dry and itchy eyelids — it might signal a condition called blepharitis. Here, eye doctors reveal how to cure blepharitis fast with home remedies, plus when to see a pro for help.

What is blepharitis?

“Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, particularly at the base of the eyelashes,” explains Joel Kopelman, MD, FACS, a New York City oculoplastic surgeon who specializes in blepharitis treatment. “Think of it as a chronic irritation or infection. [It] can be quite uncomfortable, but generally isn’t serious if managed properly.”

Anyone can experience blepharitis, but it commonly affects folks 50 and older. Other factors that increase your risk include having oily skin, going through menopause and wearing contact lenses.

There are two types of blepharitis. Anterior blepharitis is the most common type. It irritates the front of the eyelids, where your eyelashes break through the skin. Posterior blepharitis, on the other hand, occurs when the meibomian glands — which secrete oil to prevent tear evaporation — become clogged or inflamed.

What causes blepharitis?

Blepharitis can be caused by various things, including:

1. Bacterial overgrowth

We all have some bacteria on our skin. But if these microorganisms build up on our upper or lower eyelids, they can block the meibomian glands and cause redness, itching and irritation.

2. Demodex mites

Tiny demodex mites find human hairs (like eyelashes) very appealing, which can lead to blepharitis. “These microscopic mites are normally found on the skin,” says Rahul Pandit, MD, a practicing ophthalmologist at Houston Methodist Hospital. “However, when found in high concentrations at the roots of the eyelashes, they can cause various eye conditions, from slight irritation to more serious scarring and inflammation.”

3. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD)

Remember the meibomian glands we mentioned earlier? If you don’t regularly clean your eyelashes, these pores can clog. Clogged meibomian glands keep oil from lubricating your tears, increasing the risk of dry eyes, inflammation and irritation.

Other less common causes of blepharitis include allergies, rosacea and eyelid dandruff.

Symptoms of blepharitis

An illustration of a eye with blepharitis
ttsz/Getty

Dr. Kopelman, who also runs a YouTube channel, says blepharitis symptoms include:

  • Red, swollen eyelids
  • Itching
  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Excess tearing
  • A feeling like there’s something stuck in your eyes

You might also have crusty or flaky skin at the base of your eyelashes if you have Demodex blepharitis. Symptom severity varies, but if you experience any of the above, Dr. Kopelman says “it’s a good indicator you might be dealing with blepharitis.”

How to cure blepharitis fast: 5 easy tips

When you’re dealing with blepharitis, you want a cure that works fast. “I’ve seen many of my patients find significant relief with simple lifestyle changes,” Dr. Kopelman says. “It’s always rewarding to see people regain comfort and confidence with these manageable adjustments.” Here, our experts’ top tips.

1. Clean your lids this way

Since blepharitis is often caused by the collection of bacteria, oil or mites, good eyelid hygiene is a smart first step. It “can help remove debris and reduce bacterial buildup,” Dr. Kopelman says.

To do: “Wrap your index finger around a clean washcloth and add a few drops of ‘no tears’ [e.g., Johnson & Johnson] baby shampoo to it,” explains Dr. Pandit. “Then close your eyes and gently ‘brush’ your eyelids [near the roots of your lashes] for 15 seconds on each eye.”

Tip: You can also try an over-the-counter eyelid scrub like OCuSOFT Lid Scrub Plus or Biotrue Micellar Eyelid Cleansing Wipes. Dr. Pandit says these are often even more effective than using a washcloth.

2. Apply a warm compress

Another way to cure blepharitis fast? Moist heat. “Applying a warm, damp cloth to your closed eyelids for 5-10 minutes can help loosen the crust and soften the oils inside your eyelid glands,” Dr. Kopelman says. “This can reduce inflammation and make cleaning more effective.”

Simply soak a clean washcloth in warm water and sit or lie down on your back. Wring out any excess water, and drape the cloth over your eyes and relax for at least 5 minutes, says Dr. Pandit.

For even better results try using a microwave-activated eye mask. Dr. Pandit says “this method retains heat better on the eyes.” One to try: Microwave-Activated Warm Eye Compress.

3. Boost your omega-3s

You might benefit from an omega-3 fatty acid supplement if you have blepharitis caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. These supplements “improve the quality of the oil produced by the glands in your eyelids, reducing inflammation and helping keep your eyes lubricated,” Dr. Kopelman explains.

A study in Transactions of the American Ophthalmological Society confirms this advice. Participants with dry eyes who took two 1,000 mg omega-3 fatty acid oral capsules three times daily saw improvements in tear production and tear quality. Another study in Cornea found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation significantly improved dry eye symptoms (a common side effect of blepharitis).

Dr. Pandit recommends a liquid fish or flaxseed oil supplement because they’re more easily absorbed than capsules. “Take ½ Tbs. of fish oil or 1 Tbs. of flaxseed oil daily, either by itself or mixed with food,” he says. Since fish oil tastes, well, fishy, it’s more palatable with a meal. And research in a medical journal shows omega-3’s are more easily absorbed when consumed with fatty foods, such as whole-fat yogurt or avocado. A fish oil to try: Barleans Mango Peach Omega-3 Fish Oil.

Alternatively, you can take a gel capsule. Just be sure it’s formulated for blepharitis or dry eyes. Dr. Pandit suggests HydroEye Soft Gels.

4. Try artificial tears

A mature woman in a blue shirt applying eye drops for blepharitis
ProfessionalStudioImages/Getty

When your meibomian glands get clogged, the oil they produce doesn’t mix with your natural tears. This raises the risk of dry eyes and irritation, research in Ophthalmology and Therapy shows. Over-the-counter artificial tears can make all the difference, especially if you have dry eyes and blepharitis. Artificial tears won’t address blepharitis itself, but Dr. Kopelman says they “can help alleviate the dry, gritty feeling in your eyes.”

Dr. Pandit recommends eyedrops that include oil in their formulation. “This can replenish the oils missing from your eyelids and help coat your eyes, eliminating some of the overlapping dry eye symptoms.” One to try: OCuSOFT Retaine Ophthalmic Emulsion.

5. Ask your eye doctor about XDEMVY

If your blepharitis symptoms continue even after self-care, there’s a good chance Demodex mites are to blame. In this case, your best bet is to ask your eye doctor about a prescription treatment called XDEMVY to cure blepharitis fast. This is the first (and only) FDA-approved treatment for Demodex blepharitis. You administer one drop of XDEMVY in each eye, twice daily for six weeks.

In clinical trials, 50% of patients who used XDEMVY experienced significantly less crusting (eyelid dandruff), and 60% of participants had their infections wiped out.

How to cure blepharitis fast: When to see your doctor

Most instances of blepharitis can be managed at home. A report in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science found that about 50% of cases are mild, 36% are moderate and about 8% are severe. If you fall into the latter category, don’t wait to make an appointment with your doctor. That’s especially true if “you have severe redness, swelling, pain or any vision changes,” Dr. Kopelman says. “An eye doctor or dermatologist can diagnose the condition and recommend appropriate treatments to manage your symptoms effectively.”


More ways to keep your eyes healthy:

What Doctors Want Women Over 50 to Know About Thyroid Eye Disease Symptoms and the Link to Menopause

The Berry Extract Doctors Recommend to Relieve Dry Eye More Safely Than Eye Drops

Eye Docs Share the Fastest Way to Heal a Swollen Eyelid + the Warning Sign To Watch Out For

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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