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How to treat the skin around your eyes

As well as being the UK’s number one provider of laser eye surgery, and carrying out thousands of sight tests every year, Optical Express also provide services that look after your all-round eye care.

We understand that to enable optimum eye health, it’s important to look after the sensitive skin around your eyes.

The eyelid is unique, the skin is thinner than the rest of the skin on the body and it lacks the fat which cushions the rest of the body’s skin. As a result your eyelids are more susceptible to irritants and skin conditions.

If your eyelids are dry it can cause them to be flaky, scaly and rough. When this happens you can experience irritation, redness and itchiness, among other symptoms.

Causes of dry eyelids

There are a number of causes of dry skin on the eyelids, including:

  • Low humidity
  • The aging process
  • Exposure to irritants.

As well as these factors, there are underlying conditions of varying severity which can cause dry eyelids, including; contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, and blepharitis.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a condition that occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant. The outcome is dry, red, irritated and flaky skin. Contact dermatitis can appear at any time in your life as you can develop an allergy to a substance despite never having had a reaction to it before. Also, be aware that the products you use can alter their ingredients without your knowledge.

Treatments include:

  • Identify and avoid – Isolate the cause of the contact dermatitis and avoid contact with it
  • Emollients - when applied directly to the skin, emollients reduce water loss and moisturise the skin 
  • Topical corticosteroids - If your skin is very red, sore and inflamed, your GP may prescribe a topical corticosteroid (cream or ointment applied directly to your skin) that can quickly reduce the inflammation.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis can cause scaling on your skin as well as making it itchy, red, and even crack.

Common amongst young children, atopic dermatitis shares many of the symptoms of contact dermatitis. The condition can be hereditary, caused by environmental factors, or because of a problem with your immune system. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition, but flare-ups can be treated.

Treatments include:

  • Moisturisers– use daily to avoid the skin becoming dry
  • Topical corticosteroids – creams to reduce swelling and redness during flare-ups
  • Antihistamines for severe itching

Blepharitis

This condition occurs on the eyelid and can be caused by bacteria or a form of dermatitis which causes the Meibomian glands to become blocked.  Blepharitis affects your eyelashes or the inner edge of the eye. Blepharitis can cause symptoms such as irritation, redness, burning, and watery eyes.

Treatments include:

  • Eyelid hygiene - it's important to clean your eyelids every day if you have blepharitis
  • Warm compresses - soak a clean flannel or eye pad in cooled boiled water and gently place this over the eyes for around 10 minutes
  • Eyelid massage - gently massage your closed eyes by rolling your little finger in a circular motion along the eyelid or take a cotton wool bud and, with your eyes shut, gently roll it downwards on the upper eyelid towards the lashes and edges of the eyelids 
  • Antibiotic drops and ointments - If you have blepharitis that doesn't respond to regular cleaning, you may be prescribed a course of antibiotic ointments, creams or eye drops.

If you’re worried about these or any other eye conditions, make an appointment to see one of our expert optometrists today who can conduct a thorough check on your eyes.