What Is Staphylococcal Blepharitis?

Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria that we all have on our skin, in our nose, and all over our bodies. It doesn't always cause a problem, but when this bacteria is out of balance in the body it can lead to infections.

Staphylococcal blepharitis is a type of blepharitis caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. This infection accounts for up to a third of all cases of blepharitis, which causes inflammation and irritation of the eyelid.

In this article, we'll discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatments of staphylococcal blepharitis.

a young man rubbing his eyes

Oscar Wong / Getty Images

Types of Staphylococcal Blepharitis

Staphylococcal blepharitis refers to blepharitis that is caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid, often caused by bacteria or blocked oil glands.

What Are Staph Infections?

Staphylococcus infections, or staph infections, generically describe infections caused by one of more than 30 types of bacteria in the staphylococcus group. These bacteria are found naturally all over the body, especially on the surface of the skin. When they multiply to extreme levels, it can cause infections.

Staphylococcus aureus is the most common type of staphylococcus bacteria that causes blepharitis. Other types of staph bacteria can also cause blepharitis, including Staphylococcus epidermidis, coagulase-negative staphylococci, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).


Blepharitis is an inflammatory eye condition caused by the staphylococcus bacteria.

Staphylococcal Blepharitis Symptoms

Drainage and crusty discharge are the most common symptoms. Other symptoms of staphylococcal blepharitis can include:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Teary or watery eyes
  • A gritty feeling
  • Excessive blinking
  • Blurry vision
  • A crusty discharge on your lash line or in the corners of your eyes
  • Eyelids that become stuck together
  • Flaking of the skin around the eyes
  • Oily eyelids
  • Dry eyes
  • Sensitivity to light


There are many ways that the staphylococcus bacteria can enter the eye and cause an infection. Contaminated contact lenses and cosmetics both carry the risk of causing staphylococcal blepharitis. However, dry eyes also have a significant link to bacterial infections in the eye, including staphylococcal blepharitis.

Dry eyes and staphylococcal blepharitis developed together in 50% to 75% of people, although it's not clear which one causes the other. It's believed that dry eyes can increase the risk of injuries and irritation that can allow staphylococcus bacteria to colonize and cause infection.

Other conditions like rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis or blocked oil glands on the eyelid can also lead to staphylococcal blepharitis—sometimes as a secondary infection due to the blockages and ulcers that may form around them.


To diagnose blepharitis, your doctor will exam your eye and eyelid, usually with a magnifier and bright light. If a bacterial infection is suspected as the cause of your inflammation, your doctor may use a swab to collect a sample from the infected area.

Cultures of the sampled material can reveal exactly what type of bacteria is causing the infection. Antibiotic therapy can be targeted to clear up the infection most effectively.


Cultures can give your doctor information about what type of bacteria is causing an infection, but staphylococcal blepharitis is usually diagnosed by physical exam alone.


Antibiotics are prescribed to treat most bacterial infections—including staphylococcal blepharitis. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics in the form of eye drops, ointments, or pills.

The most commonly used antibiotics for treating staphylococcal blepharitis are topical forms of:

These are usually applied after cleaning your eyelid with warm water and mild soap. You may need to use these ointments for four to eight weeks, depending on how severe the infection is.


Some cases of staphylococcus blepharitis go away pretty quickly. Many cases, however, are chronic, especially if they are brought on by other conditions like rosacea, dry eyes, and dermatitis.

Your doctor can help you develop a plan for good hygiene that can help control this chronic condition, but you should expect to have periods of acute flare-ups and remission when the condition disappears. Strict management of blepharitis is important to prevent more serious complications like vision problems or cornea damage.


Most cases of staphylococcal blepharitis are chronic, but you can expect to have periods of remission when the condition is under control.


Inflammation of the eyelid can be very uncomfortable, no matter how bad your infection. While the antibiotics can help resolve the infection, you can alleviate your symptoms by:

  • Applying a warm compress to open glands and dissolve buildup
  • Using steroid eye drops to reduce inflammation
  • Cleaning your eyelids regularly
  • Avoiding wearing contact lenses or using cosmetics


While antibiotics treat your infection, there are several things you can do to feel better while you recover from staphylococcus aureus, such as by keeping your eyes clean.


Blepharitis causes inflammation of the eyelid, and there are many different types of this condition. Staphylococcus bacteria is one of them. This type is caused by the staphylococcus bacteria and is usually treated with antibiotics.

A Word From Verywell

As uncomfortable as eyelid irritation can be, there are a number of things you can do as you wait out a flare-up of staphylococcal blepharitis. While antibiotics are used to treat active infections, blepharitis is usually a chronic condremition. Talk to your doctor about preventive and comfort measures you can take to keep your infection under control.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes staphylococcal blepharitis?

    Bacteria from the staphylococcus group are the cause of this type of blepharitis, but it is also associated with other eye problems including severe dryness.

  • Can staphylococcal blepharitis be cured?

    If it's a limited infection, antibiotics can cure staphylococcal blepharitis, but many cases are chronic. This means you will have periods of flare-ups and remission.

  • How can my doctor tell if I have staphylococcal blepharitis?

    A visual examination of your eye and eyelid is usually enough for a diagnosis, but your doctor may also take a sample of any drainage for testing.

  • What is the main symptom of staphylococcal blepharitis?

    Redness, irritation, and swelling are primary symptoms of blepharitis, but bacterial forms of the condition usually feature some kind of crust or drainage too.

  • How can I decrease my symptoms of staphylococcal blepharitis?

    It can take time for staphylococcal blepharitis to clear up, but warm compresses and regular eye cleaning can help make you more comfortable.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. Staphylococcus aureus.

  2. Abelson M, Shapiro A, Tobey C. A guide for breaking down blepharitis.

  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Staphylococcus infections.

  4. Utheim T, Hodges RR, Dartt DA. The eyelid. In: Pathobiology of Human Disease. Elsevier; 2014:2201-2215. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-386456-7.04712-2

  5. Cleveland Clinic. Blepharitis.

  6. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Blepharitis.

  7. Putnam CM. Diagnosis and management of blepharitis: an optometrist's perspectiveClin Optom (Auckl). 2016;8:71-78. doi:10.2147/OPTO.S84795

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.