There are a number of potential causes of eyelid irritation, medically known as blepharitis. Blepharitis is the most common eye disease, and fortunately is in most cases easily treated. Eye irritation is sometimes a temporary condition. We get itchy or scratchy eyes, which rubbing may only make worse, only to have things clear up on their own in relatively short order. This common occurrence can result from irritants in the air, some of which we may have an allergic reaction to. An eyelid's skin is quite thin and very sensitive to its environment.
Besides irritants or particulate matter floating in the air, eyelid irritation can be caused by a bacterial infection, such as shingles to cite a rather severe situation, or by a skin disorder, eczema being one, or any number of systemic diseases. Cosmetics, especially makeup, are a leading cause of blepharitis. It's not just any makeup or facial creme, but one which contains an ingredient which either naturally irritates the skin, especially the sensitive skin of the eyelid, or contains an ingredient which turns out to be an allergen.
Symptoms - In mild cases of eye irritation, a slight itching may be the only sensation experienced. In more severe cases, the eyelids may become red and inflamed, and even feature open sores or lesions which, besides being prone to infection, often bleed. The eyelids can even become very dark in color, giving the impression that the affected person has suffered a black eye, or two of them in some instances. The skin may be come scaly and flake off like dandruff, or if an infection is present, there may be a discharge present which will cause the eyelids to tend to become "stuck". If the eyelids or the area around them become warm to the touch, the blepharitis may be quite severe and should be looked into by a care provider. Except in very severe cases, or where a serious systemic disease is involved, a single treatment by a doctor or ophthalmologist will usually be sufficient, and recovery is normally quite rapid. Some causes, such as eczema, may occur again at a later date, while eye irritation due to shingles is not so likely to reoccur.
Eczema - Eczema is noteworthy in that it is one of the causes of eye irritation that can sometimes be difficult to treat. An eczema flare up is usually caused by an allergen in the environment. The irritation may not be long lasting, and may only occur infrequently, but can be quite uncomfortable when it does occur. We most often experience this skin disease on other parts of the body, usually elbows, knees, and occasionally along the scalp line, but not too often on the eyelids. If you do have this condition, you've possibly discovered that cosmetics are often the cause behind a flare up, and care when applying cosmetics or avoiding certain cosmetics entirely may suffice to prevent a flare up and the subsequent irritation. Moisturizing is often helpful in treating the irritation, whether it has been caused by eczema or something else. There are several topical drugs which are known to provide effective treatment. One should take care in using over the counter treatments on eyelids because of the sensitive skin and also because of their proximity to the eyeball.
Shingles - Shingles, caused by a mutant virus of the type causing chickenpox, can also strike the eyelid, causing a great deal of irritation and often pain. Eyelid shingles is not terribly common. People afflicted by shingles usually have the symptoms elsewhere on the body, but the eyelids can be affected, so the condition is noted here, as there is a possibility of the eye itself becoming damaged if treatment is not sought quickly enough. Although itching is an early symptom, it is often preceded by the area around the eyes, and the eyelids themselves, becoming sensitive to the touch. Itching and inflammation will usually follow, leading to the condition we know as blepharitis. With shingles however, the condition usually gets worse, and the area about the eye can become overly sensitive and very painful. Shingles goes away on its own most of the time, but in the meantime a physician may prescribe topical medications designed both to relive the pain and itching, and to prevent damage to the eye itself.
Fortunately, almost all cases of eyelid irritation are just that, irritation. If the condition persists for a time, gets worse, or simply becomes intolerable, seeing your primary care provider is the wisest step to take.
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