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Blepharitis is the term used for a family of eyelid margin disorders that cause symptoms such as redness, swelling, itching or burning, dryness, crusty lids, grittiness, and even eventual loss of eyelashes. Rarely, it is caused by an underlying bacterial infection, skin conditions, or even an insect infestation!

First, it helps to understand that the natural tears are composed of three main layers, each of which help in keeping the eye lubricated. About 90% of tears are made of what most people would call salt water; the other ten percent keeps the tears in place on the surface of the eye, and keeps them from evaporating too quickly. All three factors must be in balance to provide clear, comfortable vision.

Patients shouldn't try to self-diagnose this condition, or try to treat it on their own, because if there is an underlying infection, it's important to treat that first; only your eyecare provider can make that distinction and get treatment started in that case.

This condition is complicated sometimes when patients use eye makeup, such as eyeliner or mascara, or when they use contact lenses. Neither of these need to be discontinued, but proper care and good quality makeup materials, as well as following all contact lens instructions carefully, is important in controlling blepharitis.

Blepharitis cannot be completely cured, but now your eyecare provider can reach for a new tool in its treatment, the BlephEx lid cleanser.

In the past, patients were advised to use lubricating eye drops, apply hot compresses several times a day, and to use cotton swabs to clean the lid margins with either a commercial lid scrub preparation or a solution of baby shampoo and water. While all these treatments have their place, it's obvious that keeping up with them daily will be difficult for most patients during their average working day.

The BlephEx tool is a tiny, rotating lid scrubber, with sponge-tip applicator which is changed with each treatment of each eye. It can be used by the eye doctor in his office to physically remove the scales and debris that collect on the lid margins in blepharitis.

The treatment with the BlephEx instrument is very well tolerated, is not painful and results in improved comfort almost immediately. Most people report only a mild "tickling" of the lids during the procedure. This treatment takes less than five minutes.

First, the doctor will use a numbing drop in each eye. After that, the new sponge-tip is applied to the tool and is dipped into the lid scrub liquid. Then, the doctor will gently scrub each lid margin. The tool is very effective at removing any foreign matter. The rotating brush is then reversed and applied again, so the area is cleaned from both directions at the base of the lashes. The eye is rinsed with a sterile saline solution, and the sponge tip is replaced for the other eye.

Patients should still use basic lid hygiene techniques, including hot compresses and lid scrubs, to help keep the condition under control, but even with the BlephEx, retreatment every four to six months is recommended. Blepharitis is a chronic condition that can’t be cured, but comfort can certainly be increased.

The maker of the BlephEx, maintains a web site with more information, a video of an actual treatment, and photographs of eyelids immediately before and after treatment. See it at http://www.rysurg.com/

The BlephEx is a new treatment modality for this condition, and is not covered at this time by health or vision insurance. Most patients, however, will find the treatment to be economical, especially in terms of the time they would otherwise be spending doing lid compresses and scrubs.

It is important that patients realize that no treatment currently available can be considered a cure for blepharitis, and they will need to continue with good lid hygiene efforts, including meticulous contact lens care, and complete replacement of eye makeup materials every six months. It is never a good idea to borrow makeup, or lend it out.

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