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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 left hand as he rubs his eyes

Blepharitis develops unpleasant symptoms, including redness, irritation, and inflammation. But how does blepharitis develop and can you catch it from someone else? While a bacterial infection may cause the condition, blepharitis is not contagious.

However, blepharitis shares some signs and symptoms with common contagious eye infections, such as pink eye (viral conjunctivitis), so visiting your eye care team for a conclusive diagnosis is crucial. Your eye care team can identify the type of blepharitis you have and provide solutions and modern in-office treatment technology for sustained comfort.

What Is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a frustrating eye condition that can cause discomfort and irritation. It’s inflammation that affects the eyelids, which are crucial in protecting your eyes from external irritants like bacteria and dust.

There are different types of blepharitis:

  • Anterior blepharitis: on the eyelid’s exterior
  • Posterior blepharitis: on the inner edge of the eyelid
  • Infectious blepharitis: associated with bacteria, fungus or demodex
  • Mixed blepharitis: multifactorial and combination of types above

The most common symptoms of blepharitis include:

  • Swollen eyelids
  • Inflamed eyelids
  • Burning feeling in the eyes
  • Oily eyelids
  • Eye redness
  • Watery eyes
  • Crusty eyelashes

If left untreated, blepharitis can cause complications like styes, corneal ulcers, vascularization, eyelid scarring, loss of oil glands, chronic redness or eyelash loss

Blepharitis may be caused by a bacterial infection and sometimes by skin conditions such as rosacea. The bacteria Staphylococcus and seborrheic dermatitis are essential culprits of this eye condition.

Some other risk factors that contribute to blepharitis include:

  • Diabetes
  • Contact lens wear
  • Oily skin
  • Hormonal changes
  • Dry environments
  • Exposure to irritants like dust
  • Certain skin conditions, like rosacea
  • Certain medication’s side effects
  • Not removing your makeup entirely
  • Poor facial hygiene

Blepharitis is also commonly linked to meibomian gland dysfunction and dry eye, and the two conditions can aggravate each other.

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

Your meibomian glands produce the oil component of your tears to keep your eyes lubricated. When they become blocked, you can experience meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) and your glands are inhibited from secreting the fresh oil necessary for good eye health.

If left ignored, MGD can alter the tear film, damage the cornea’s surface with corneal ulcers and abrasions, vascularization and lead to eyelid discomfort and evaporative dry eye.

Can Blepharitis Be Spread Between People?

Blepharitis is not contagious, meaning it cannot be spread from person to person. None of the causes, even bacterial infections, are transferable, but it’s still crucial to identify and treat blepharitis to relieve symptoms.

Common Contagious Eye Infections

There are contagious eye infections that share similar symptoms to blepharitis to consider.

  • Viral Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, can spread between people
  • Some forms of Keratitis can be retransmitted to yourself in a cycle

Treatments for Blepharitis

Blepharitis treatment typically addresses the primary cause of inflammation and irritation. Since it is not contagious, you cannot pass it on to others, yet it can affect the quality of life.

If you have blepharitis, it’s recommended to adopt measures such as:

  • Warm compresses
  • Lid hygiene
  • Artificial tears
  • In-office treatments such as BlephEx and other devices

In some cases, your eye doctor may prescribe medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, or immunomodulators. If your blepharitis is multifactorial and involves an allergic component, your doctor may recommend avoiding the allergen or prescribe antihistamines.

During an exam with your eye care team, they’ll uncover the underlying cause and help minimize the effects of the condition on your overall well-being.

A woman receives an eye exam from a male optometrist

Prevention of Blepharitis

Prevention is always better than treatment. You can take several steps to prevent blepharitis from occurring or reoccurring. While it is not contagious, preventative measures can help to avoid triggering the condition.

  • Avoiding rubbing your eyes
  • Regularly wash your face
  • Effectively clean your eyelids
  • Take a break from eye makeup
  • Avoiding the use of lotions, creams, or makeup products that contain harsh chemicals or oils

Additionally, refraining from sharing eye products and properly disposing of expired items can go a long way in preventing this eye condition.

Treat Blepharitis at the Source

While blepharitis can be unpleasant, you can’t pass the condition to anyone else. If you experience any of the signs and symptoms of blepharitis, contact your eye care team immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Contact Vector Eye Centre to learn about the available technology to treat your symptoms, prevent flare-ups, and provide long-lasting relief from eyelid inflammation.

Written by Dr. Jamie Bhamra

Dr. Jamie Bhamra is an ophthalmologist with advanced training in cataract and corneal surgery, including refractive surgery, corneal cross-linking, external disease, ocular surface disease, and dry eye disease. He practices comprehensive ophthalmology in Calgary, Alberta.
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