How important is Eyelid Hygiene?

Last week we looked at some common causes of eyelid inflammation. Maintaining clean eyelids plays a crucial part in preventing infections and in maintaining a healthy eyelid margin. In fact, just like the rest of our body, our eyelids should also be cleaned from time to time. This is especially important for people who suffer from the common condition blepharitis which is inflammation of the eyelid margins.



The formation of our natural tears plays a very important part here. Our tears are made up of a balance of oil and water. This balance is so delicate that anything which causes it to shift can lead to inflammation of the eyelids. The natural oil is produced by glands which empty out onto the eyelid margins. Sometimes these glands can get blocked or excess oil can get stuck on the eyelashes in the form of wax and irritate our eyes. This creates the perfect environment for debris to get stuck and this causes bacteria to get trapped around and inside our eyes. It is this eyelash debris which can lead to blepharitis, Dry Eye Disease and other eye conditions.

At times, tiny, white scales which stick to the roots of your eyelashes may also be visible. Correct eyelid hygiene will also help to get rid of these scales. Eyelid hygiene is particularly important before and after eye surgery.



Maintaining good eyelid hygiene is easier than it sounds.

Follow the 3 steps below to learn how to clean your eye lids effectively:


Step 1: Apply a hot compress

Hold a clean face cloth moistened in comfortably hot water against your closed eyelids for at least 5 minutes. You will need to reheat the face cloth from time to time to ensure that it remains at the desired temperature. This process will help to melt the oil in the blocked glands. If you have an infection in one eye it is crucial to change the face cloth when you are cleaning the other eye otherwise you risks spreading the infection to the healthy eye.

Instead of using a face cloth, various hot eye compresses are available from pharmacies and opticians like The Eye Mask Hot Eye Compress and The Eye Doctor Body Beads (both available from Vision Opticians shops). These products can be warmed in a microwave to reach the desired temperature and they can also be used repeatedly.


Step 2: Massage your eyelids

The next step of eyelid hygiene involves gently massaging your eyelids. Using a clean cotton bud, firmly stroke the skin of your eyelids towards your eyelashes. This process helps to move the oil in the glands and it also helps to unblock the glands.


Step 3: Cleaning

The last stage of eye hygiene involves cleaning away any crust and oil on your eyelids or in your eyelashes. For this step prepare a small bowl with warm water which has been pre-boiled and add a quarter of a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate.  After, dip a clean cotton bud into the water and use it to gently clean your eyelids and eyelashes.

To make thing easier, step 2 and 3 can be done together by using over the counter eyelid wipes which are available from pharmacies and opticians. Systane Lid Wipes are specially designed pre-moistened eyelid cleansing wipes which can be used as part of a daily hygiene regimen. These wipes can be used to remove debris and eye makeup. Systane Lid Wipes are hypoallergenic and each wipe is individually wrapped making them ideal for carrying around. These wipes can be used to massage your eyelids after you apply the hot compress.

If you develop further symptoms or if your eyelids remain swollen it is advisable to speak to your pharmacist or doctor.