Blepharitis and Crohn's Disease

Recently while in the hospital, I came down with a case of blepharitis. I’m still not sure why these types of infections happen, but when they do, I always wake up and go “Really? Again?” I’m very prone to lip swelling, eye swelling, mouth, nose, and throat issues with my Crohn’s.

When I was in college, I developed blepharitis and it looked like I had 3 eyelids but couldn’t open any of them. My eyelid had been so swollen, the muscles to my lid didn’t even work properly.

This time I knew exactly what it was from having it so many other times after that time in college. I immediately asked to be checked out by the medical doctor, who confirmed that I did have blepharitis. But this time, the swelling went away within 24 hours.

Facial swelling and irritated eyelids

Usually, for me, it’s taken days to almost weeks to get facial swelling back to normal. I was a bit shocked. I was confused, but I was glad that I could fully see again without an obstructed view. A week later now, the only issue I seem to be having is that it’s been a bit itchier and it’s a bit flaky in the corner of my eye to the point that some skin has shed.

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It’s been a bit sensitive to touch, but that is almost gone now. When It first came on, every time I wanted to itch my eye, it hurt so bad that I thought I was going to scratch some of the skin off.

Now that my skin is almost completely healed, I’m hesitant to put anything near my eye because it still feels like my skin is very flaky and that putting makeup or lotion on could potentially bring it back to the size it was when it was swollen.

So what is blepharitis and what is it caused by?

Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids. It can occur in the inner eye, outer eye or if you’re really unlucky, your whole eyelid will swell.

It’s red, it’s inflamed, it hurts like heck and it happens overnight - very quickly. You can have it in the inside of your eyelids - interior blepharitis or on the outer eyelids, or the skin portion of your eyelid, called posterior blepharitis.

What do you experience when blepharitis occurs?

Usually, there will be eyelid pain that occurs. The skin around the eye feels very sensitive and indeed, is, extremely sensitive. Patients may experience itchy, watery, crusty, inflamed, red eyelids, and perhaps an overproduction of oil/greasy eyelids.

You may experience sensitivity to light and had a slight headache. Many doctors agree that with some types of blepharitis, it may be caused by a factor of oil-producing glands around our eyes. Unfortunately, for people that experience this, there is a high recurrence for it happening again.

What’s recommended to treat blepharitis?

Usually, the most common answer I’ve personally heard and have seen is simply taking a warm compress or washcloth to your eye. Loosening any dry areas of skin or dandruff may subside with the use of warm water and a washcloth.

Be careful not to wipe or scrape the skin, as it is extremely sensitive and may actually take a layer of skin with it. I’ve been told that warm water and baby shampoo (sometimes used for dandruff) is also an option. Antibiotics and steroid eye drops can also be used in severe cases.

Extra-intestinal manifestations with Crohn's or UC

It’s important to know that extra-intestinal manifestations can occur with IBD. While I’m not 100% certain it’s caused by my immune-mediated issues, I have a pretty good idea that when it hits me, it gets bad - and fast.

I also don’t exhibit most symptoms that may people do. I present with eye pain, one very swollen eyelid, and no excess oil, crust, or anything to make me think that inflammation is coming on.

It’s important for your doctor to know these things, so if you notice that your face is starting to swell, it is always a better idea to get it checked out and have it confirmed with a doctor. You should also consult your GI just to let them know you have been having issues - some forms of Blepharitis can actually be caused by Staph (Staphylococcus).

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