Blepharitis, Dry Eye and How to Relieve Symptoms

by | 25 January, 2022

Key Points:

  • Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyes that can cause ‘dry eye’, swelling and a painful scratching sensation
  • HEPA filters can help reduce triggers
  • Symptoms can be treated using the “Heat, Cleanse, Hydrate” routine

Blepharitis means “inflammation of the eye”.

(In the same way spondylitis means “inflammation of the spine”)

It’s a nasty, irritating condition which effects the eyelids.

It causes itchiness, scratching, swelling and often leads to ‘dry eye’ which can be extremely uncomfortable and painful if left to fester.

Think sharp, crusty bits, forming in-between the lashes on your eyelids.

I’ve had blepharitis a long time, since I was 18 or 19. Back then I used to rub Vaseline around my eyelids every morning and night in a bid to stave off the dry eye.

It was an oddly effective treatment but created an unfortunate perma-wet glow around my eyes, like I was constantly on the verge of tears.

Fast forward 20 years and I’d given up the Vaseline somewhere along the way but not on the constant eye rubbing…

In 2022, shortly after I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, things ramped up.

I managed to poke myself in the eye with a stick and while it definitely hurt at the time it was 2 weeks later when the real pain started.

Every night, without fail, I woke up at 4:30am with an intense pain in my left eye.

It felt like a kind of stabbing – ‘there’s something sharp stuck in here’ – pain that refused to go away.

Yet there was never anything visible in the eye.

There were no rogue eyelashes, no bits of gunk. So I would creep downstairs clutching my eye and pace around the living room in agony until it subsided.

Typically this took between 45 minutes to 1 hour.

The interesting thing about these episodes was that they were always accompanied by an extremely runny nose.

This constant snot factory always lasted exactly the same period of time as the eye pain.

I didn’t think the two could be coincidence so my first thought was that maybe this problem could be caused by dust mites.

Growing up my mum always told me I was allergic to them – and I often used to wake up in the middle of the night with a stuffy nose – so I thought taking on these little critters could be worth a shot.

This was our approach…

  • We put any clothes we had lying around away in the cupboard
  • We hoovered under the bed and changed the bedsheets

There was some improvement, but nothing spectacular.

At this point I decided to go full Rambo and bought a HEPA filter air purifiers.

HEPA filters claim to be able to remove 99.97% of dust, pollen, mould and bacteria.

You can buy eye wateringly expensive ones but I went for one of the cheaper ones off Amazon with lots of gushing reviews.

This turned out to be a revelation and gave me immediate relief.

No more 4:30am eye assaults for at least 2 weeks.

And if the stuffy nose thing came back (which it did sometimes) I just turned the HEPA filter on for longer during the day and this seemed to help.

But alas after about 3 weeks I had another eye assault.

I couldn’t bear it, there seemed to be no explanation for it this time. The raging pain and sleep deprivation were too much so I went back to the optometrist and let me him upsell me all his potions.

He had a kit which he sold me to treat blepharitis.

Their process is quite simple and catchy so I’ll share it here:

Heat, Cleanse, Hydrate

Heat: By heat they literally mean put a heated eye mask over your eyes for 10 minutes at a time, 2 to 3 times a day (morning and evening as a minimum).

Cleanse: By cleanse they mean gently wash around your eyelids with a special cloth to clear away any gunk.

Hydrate: By hydrate they mean put some eye drops in that will help keep your eyes lubricated.

This strategy kind of worked for me.

Certainly I could feel the ‘heat’ part helping. You put the special heat mask in the microwave for 25 seconds and then put it on your eyes for 10 minutes.

At first this felt like a faff but after a while I quite enjoyed it because I used the time to listen to a podcast.

The sensation is odd but not unpleasant and you can feel it bringing your eyeballs back to life.

The cleanse part is also helpful but you might need to do some experimenting here. It’s essential to get rid of those sharp, painful crusty bits that can form between the eyelashes and keep the area clean so cleansing is great to do at least twice a day.

However, if like me you have overly sensitive skin you may have trouble with the stuff they give you because it can be quite strong.

So those are my current tips:

– Get rid of any mites in the room (no clothing left out, frequent sheet changing and HEPA filters work great)

– Heat pack on the eyes twice a day for 10 minutes, morning and night

– Gently cleanse your eyelids before bed

Why Demodex could be at the heart of your blepharitis, dry skin and runny nose woes

Demodex sounds like a brand of futuristic soap but it’s actually a type of mite than lives in your hair follicles.

Now we’re really deep diving into this…

Dust mites are little brutes and Kryptonite to many folks with autoimmune or allergy issues.

But they are not the only gang in town…

The is another type of mite called Demodex.

They tend not to cause humans too many problems unless there are a lot of them or if the patient suffers with autoimmune problems.

In these instances they can cause swollen, itchy eyelids and dry eyes.

It can normally be treated by washing your eyelids every day. The condition is not usually serious, but can lead to other problems, such as dry eyes, cysts and conjunctivitis, especially if it’s not treated.


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