Mitchell Family Eye Care

Blepharitis: Crusty eyelashes in the morning. “Sleepy” is not just a dwarf

“Sleepy” is not just a dwarf.

You may have referred to it as “sleep,” “crust,” or even “eye boogers.”  My earliest memory of waking up with crusty eyelashes is as a very small child, and my mom telling me I had “sleepy” in my eyes.  I’m not sure why she added the “y” to the end– maybe to make it a little cuter-sounding to a 4 year old.

So what is that crust that forms in the eyelashes, usually evident upon waking in the morning?  Most likely, it is due to a chronic infectious condition called blepharitis.
Occasionally waking up with this symptom may not be a concern, just an indication of some overnight irritation to the eyes– did you sleep so hard last night that your eye didn’t completely close?  However, if crusty morning eyes become persistent, this may be  blepharitis.
Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelid margin, where your eyelashes attach.  Symptoms can include a gritty or burning sensation in the eyes, excessive tearing, itching in the eyelash area, red and swollen eyelids, dry eyes, or crusting of the eyelids.

There are two types of blepharitis: anterior and posterior blepharitis.   Anterior blepharitis affects the outer portion of the eyelids, and is typically caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the eyelashes.  Posterior blepharitis is caused by a dysfunction of the tiny oil-secreting glands which line the inside of the eyelids.  When these glands are healthy, the oil they produce is the consistency of olive oil.  However, when the metabolism of these glands is altered, the contents of the glands change to a thicker consistency, somewhere between toothpaste and Crisco. It is obviously more difficult for the glands to secrete these thickened contents, and in more severe cases the gland may back up and swell, forming a stye.

For some people, blepharitis causes only minor irritation and itching. However, it can lead to more severe signs and symptoms such as blurring of vision, missing or misdirected eyelashes, and inflammation of other ocular tissues. A close examination of your eyelids and lashes is in order if you notice any symptoms.  Blepharitis can sometimes be controlled with good eyelid hygiene and regular cleaning. In some cases antibiotics or other medications may be prescribed in addition to eyelid hygiene.

So if you notice Sleepy, don’t be Bashful– go see Doc!