Blepharitis and dry eye syndrome both result in eye discomfort. They share similar symptoms but are different conditions.

Blepharitis is eyelid inflammation often accompanied by crusts at the base of your eyelids. Dry eye is when your eyes don’t make enough tears or the right types of tears.

Dry eye is one possible symptom of blepharitis. But although it’s possible for blepharitis to cause dry eye, there’s not a lot of evidence that dry eye can cause blepharitis. It’s possible to have both conditions at the same time.

Dry eye is sometimes caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. The meibomian gland creates oil that prevents tears from drying too quickly. Research shows that when meibomian gland problems are due to inflammation, it’s because of blepharitis (inflammation of your eyelid) or meibomitis, which is inflammation of the glands themselves.

Although dry eye can be the result of some kinds of blepharitis, there’s little evidence that dry eye can cause blepharitis. There are two types of this condition, neither of which are caused by dry eye:

  • Anterior blepharitis: Anterior blepharitis is the result of too much bacteria or dandruff from your scalp and eyebrows. It may also be because of allergies or a mite infestation.
  • Posterior blepharitis: Posterior blepharitis is the result of irregular oil production from your meibomian glands, which makes a favorable environment for bacteria to grow. Rosacea can also cause this kind of blepharitis.

But it’s possible to experience both blepharitis and dry eye at the same time.

Blepharitis and dry eye aren’t the same, although you may have dry eye as a symptom if you experience blepharitis. The root cause of blepharitis is an overgrowth of bacteria feeding on cellular debris and trapped eyelid secretions, as well as skin conditions such as dandruff. Poor eyelid hygiene is responsible for most cases of blepharitis.

Dry eye can be the result of many factors, from inadequate tear production to side effects from medications. Being older than 65 years, being exposed to smoke or wind, and wearing contact lenses are all risk factors for dry eye. Some medical conditions such as diabetes and thyroid disease also make dry eye more likely.

Blepharitis and dry eye share some common symptoms. But there are some differences that can help ophthalmologists or other eye care professionals make the right diagnosis.

Blepharitis symptoms

Eye discomfort and vision changes may be symptoms of blepharitis. More specific symptoms of blepharitis include:

Other symptoms of blepharitis may be more serious, such as:

  • blurry vision
  • eyelashes falling out
  • eyelashes growing in an incorrect direction
  • swelling of parts of your eye, such as the cornea

Dry eye syndrome symptoms

Many of the symptoms of blepharitis are also experienced by those with dry eye. Symptoms of dry eye include:

  • feeling like something is in your eye
  • red eyes
  • light sensitivity
  • blurry vision
  • stinging or burning in your eye

You may also experience watery eyes or a gritty, irritated feeling. Some people with dry eye also have mucus in or near their eye.

Both blepharitis and dry eye can benefit from at-home treatment. Prevention strategies can help reduce symptoms of both conditions. There are also prescription treatments you can get from an eye doctor or eye healthcare professional.

Blepharitis treatment

Treatment for blepharitis typically involves keeping your eyelids clean. If there’s a bacterial infection that causes your blepharitis, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. In addition to keeping the area clean, there are preventive measures that may help reduce the symptoms of blepharitis.

Steps to clean your eyelids:

  1. Apply a warm compress to your eyelids to soften or loosen crusts.
  2. Remove the compress.
  3. Mix baby shampoo or a lid-cleansing solution with water.
  4. Apply the shampoo or cleansing mixture to one eyelid using a cotton-tipped applicator or a clean cloth while gently rubbing your eyelid margin.
  5. Rinse your eyelid with water.
  6. Repeat these steps with your other eyelid using a fresh cotton-tipped applicator or clean cloth.

Prevention strategies:

  • Massage your eyelids to clean accumulated oil.
  • Use ointments or artificial tears to increase your eye lubrication.
  • Use anti-dandruff shampoo on your scalp.
  • Don’t wear makeup or contact lenses while treating your eyes for blepharitis.

Dry eye syndrome treatment

Treatment for dry eye aims to restore your tears. Preventive strategies can help stop symptoms of dry eye from coming back, although for many people, dry eye is a chronic condition.

Treatment options:

  • Artificial tears: Artificial tears are available as over-the-counter eye drops.
  • Tear conservation: An ophthalmologist can block your tear ducts with small plugs or permanently close them through surgery. This keeps tears in your eyes longer.
  • Increasing tear production: Prescription drops can help your eyes make more tears. An omega-3 fatty acid supplement may also increase your tear production over time.
  • Decreasing inflammation: Home remedies and prescribed treatments can help reduce your eye surface or eyelid inflammation that can lead to dry eye. At-home options can include warm compresses and eyelid massage. An eye doctor can also recommend specific ointments or drops.

Prevention strategies:

  • Blink regularly while using screens, such as smartphones or laptops, or reading.
  • Avoid dry environments such as deserts or high altitudes.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to reduce wind exposure.
  • Increase the humidity in your home by using a humidifier.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

You may want to speak with a doctor whenever you have concerns about your eye health. If blepharitis continues to come back even with home treatment, an eye doctor may be able to determine if a prescription treatment such as antibiotics might be right for you.

If your dry eye causes discomfort that doesn’t get better with treatment and prevention strategies, you may want to speak with a doctor. They may be able to see if there’s tear gland dysfunction and recommend medical treatment to relieve your symptoms.

Dry eye and blepharitis are common but distinct eye conditions. They have different causes.

Can dry eyes cause blepharitis?

Dry eyes can’t cause blepharitis. It doesn’t cause the bacteria overgrowth that leads to blepharitis. And it’s not among the skin conditions that may cause blepharitis.

Can blepharitis cause dry eye?

Blepharitis can cause dry eye. When dry eye is the result of oil gland dysfunction, the cause may be eyelid inflammation (blepharitis) or inflammation of the gland itself.

What are the most common causes of blepharitis and dry eye?

Dry eye can result from inadequate or poor tear production. There are also other risk factors, such as getting older, exposure to smoke or wind, and certain medical conditions. Blepharitis is the result of bacterial overgrowth or skin conditions.

Blepharitis and dry eye are both common eye conditions. They’re often responsive to home treatment but frequently return. Daily eyelid hygiene is the best way to prevent recurrences. Although some people have both conditions, there’s no evidence dry eye causes blepharitis. But dry eye can be a symptom of blepharitis. An eye doctor can recommend prescription treatments if home care doesn’t relieve your symptoms of either condition.