Blepharitis is a common eye disease that affects the edge of the eyelids and the eyelash hair follicles. Symptoms include red and swollen eyelids; crusting of the eyelashes on awakening; redness of the eye; sensitivity to light; excessive tearing; frothy tears; and an itching, burning, or foreign-body sensation in the eye.
There are two forms of blepharitis. Anterior blepharitis involves the portion of the eyelid where the eyelashes attach. It is caused either by a bacterial infection, or as part of the same skin condition that causes
Posterior blepharitis occurs when the oil-secreting glands inside the eyelid (the meibomian glands) become inflamed, and eventually cannot secrete properly. This leads to changes in the liquid bathing the eye (the tear film). Like anterior blepharitis, posterior blepharitis may occur as part of seborrheic dermatitis.
has also been associated with the condition.
Treatment of blepharitis primarily involves various methods to keep the eyelids clean and free of crusts. In some cases, antibiotic or steroid eyedrops are used.
(NAC) is a specially modified form of the dietary amino acid cysteine. When taken orally, NAC is thought to help the body make the important antioxidant enzyme glutathione. It is also thought to help loosen secretions, and for this reason, it has been tried as a treatment for loosening the thick crusty secretions that block the oil-secreting glands in posterior blepharitis.
As noted above, in posterior blepharitis, the tear film becomes abnormal. A
but not blinded study evaluated the potential benefits of NAC in 50 people with chronic posterior blepharitis.
All participants received standard eye care for blepharitis. In addition, about half the participants received NAC at a dose of 100 mg 3 times daily for 8 weeks. Researchers used various methods to objectively evaluate the quality of the tear film, and found that use of NAC brought about significant improvements.
Further research, including
double-blind, placebo-controlled trials
, will be necessary to determine whether these apparent benefits translate into meaningful improvement for people with chronic blepharitis.
Certain herbs have been used, traditionally in the form of eyedrops, to treat blepharitis and related conditions, including barberry, bayberry,
. However, again, there is no meaningful evidence to indicate that they are effective. Furthermore, using herbal preparations in the eye is risky, and should not be attempted except under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a