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Eyelid Hygiene: An Often Overlooked Key To Healthy Eyes

Young woman cleans her eyelids with wipes.

An important step in maintaining good vision that you may not know about is eyelid hygiene. A North Texas ophthalmologist explains why eyelid hygiene matters, and how to keep your eyelids clean and healthy.

Keeping your eyelids and lashes clean can protect the millions of glands that line our eyelids and help secrete tears. If this area isn't kept clean, bacteria can build up on the eyelids, resulting in a number of problems.

“It’s just a very common issue that most people don’t have any sense that they need to do,” said Dr. William Waldrop, an ophthalmologist with Parkland Hospital and Assistant Professor of Opthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “And it’s not something I’d necessarily recommend across the board to every patient, but most people who come to see me have an eye problem, and that is most commonly related to dry eyes, or eyelid diseases like MGD."

Waldrop said multiple factors can play a role in eyelid health, often factors you can’t control, like exposure to things in the environment, and sometimes medications you’re taking can influence the eyelids.

The treatment, he said, is often very simple: cleaning the eyelids and some over-the counter medicine.


How To Keep Eyelids Clean

  • Heating the eyelids: A do-it-yourself method uses uncooked rice placed in a sock. Heat it up in a microwave and rest it on your eyelids for five to ten minutes. It promotes the flow of the glands in your eyelids that that secrete a fatty substance that coats your tears and keeps you tear quality good.
  • Washing the eyelid: Use some type of lid scrub or no-tears baby shampoo to scrub along the eyelash margin and scrub your eyelids clean of the bad oils.
  • Supplementing with artificial tears:  Over-the counter eye drops can be used to supplement the tears you’d normally be making on your eyes.  

Why Blinking Is Part Of Eyelid Hygiene

Whenever we see anything that’s a bright light, our eyes essentially forget to blink, and this a major disruptor of your tear film as well. Avoid screen time when you can, take a break from the screen and remember to blink."

Children And Eyelid Hygiene

Kids should definitely be taught about eyelid hygiene. Some of the worst cases of eyelid-related issues, and complications that can come of that on the eye surface, I see in kids. Sometimes they can even have some 0f the sight-threatening complications that can result from this. In their case, it's much more akin to the kind of acne you get on the skin, and they get the kind of painful focal swelling in the eyelid that can be tough to treat and requires something more than just eyelid hygiene.


How to promote and preserve eyelid health

Why Eyelid Hygiene is Important

The aging eye: when to worry about eyelid problems

Eyelid Disorders

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.