Common & Serious Eyelid Conditions

Many people experience eyelid problems from time to time. I will try to cover common ones and some potentially serious ones. This article is not meant to replace the advice of your GP or eye specialist.

Probably the most common eye-lid complaint is something called “blepharitis” which describes an inflammation along the edges of the lids. In its mildest form it is mildly irritating but in its severest form it can affect the health of the eye itself. It tends to present with a slightly red-rimmed appearance of the eyelids and some ocular irritation. It is caused most often by the accumulation of dead skin cells around the eye-lash roots which then become infected by common skin bacteria. It is treated with a combination of eye-lid cleaning (scrubs) and antibiotic drops or ointment. In most people it takes a few months of treatment to slowly resolve but in some life-long cleaning of the eyelids may be necessary.

Another common eyelid complaint are styes. These can be divided into two kinds. The more common external eye-lid margin form and the internal “meibomian” gland form. The external type usually settles quickly without much in the way of treatment being required but the deeper/internal type (also called “Chalazion”) often requires surgical incision to release the gland blockage. This can be done by an ophthalmologist, usually in the consulting rooms.

Other lumps can occur on the eyelids some of which can be serious. Benign tumours commonly occur but as the eyelid skin is prone to sun exposure we do also see many eyelid malignant tumours. There are broadly speaking three varieties of malignancies affecting the eye-lid skin. From least to most serious are – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Each would require surgical excision and eyelid reconstruction by a specialist trained in eyelid work.

Other common eyelid problems, especially in the more elderly, are droopy upper lids and baggy excess skin-folds around the eyes. A droopy upper eyelid is known as “ptosis” and is because the eyelid muscle tendon becomes stretched over time. This can be repaired very successfully with an operation to shorten the tendon. For baggy excess skin around the eyes one would need surgery as well. This would entail trimming off the excess. Please consult your eye specialist for further advice.

Certain cosmetic procedures are commonly used on the eyelids. A good example of this would be botulinum toxin (“Botox”) injections to rejuvenate the appearance of the lids especially where wrinkles are concerned.

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