Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids and may also include inflammation of the tiny glands of the eyelid margin called the meibomian glands. There are many causes but, one of the most common we see is immune-mediated and may require long-term management especially if underlying allergies are involved. We also see blepharitis occur spontaneously and your pet may just have one incidence although treatment may take weeks to months. Other cases may require a biopsy in order to determine the cause.
Tiny eyelid glands produce olive oil-like fat needed to delay evaporation of the water in tears. When this fat is gone due to clogging of the glands or the fat changes to a toothpaste-like consistency, evaporation of the watery tears occurs too quickly. The tear film protecting the cornea breaks apart into dry, unprotected spots; the cornea feels dry, so excessive tearing and scar tissue may form.
Blepharitis may be very itchy and, just like a child scratching at a mosquito bite; this can make the inflammation worse. We need to try to stop your pet from doing this. An Elizabethan collar may be needed in the first few days of therapy.
Treating blepharitis may be approached in different ways:
1.Warm compresses may help in the first week to loosen up the clogged glands and clean away debris. Warm tap water on a face cloth can be applied to each eye for 5 minutes twice a day. Keeping the eyelids clean is essential in decreasing mucous buildup and associated bacteria.
2. Topical antibiotics may be used to decrease the bacteria on the eyelid margin. Ointment formulations may be prescribed in that they help to stabilize the water in the tear film by decreasing evaporation.
3. Antibiotics by mouth may also be prescribed. These should be taken with food. At times, these may be given for several weeks and in some cases several months. Doxycycline or Cephalexin are commonly used antibiotics but, others may be employed. Please let us know if your pet is vomiting or shows any signs of gagging while taking these medications.
4. In very inﬂamed cases, a steroidal anti-inflammatory may be used to decrease severe swelling.
5. No blowing air. Keep your pet away from heating or air conditioning vents and DO NOT let them stick their head out the car window. Grooming should be performed without the aid of blow dryers
6. Keep your pet’s hair around the eyes trimmed short.
Hang in there! Even in people with blepharitis, treatment may take a while.