Eyelid and eyelash problems

by | Eye Health, Pharmacy Care

General Information

Common eye problems include inflammation and infection of the eyelids and eyelashes (also called blepharitis and styes).


Blepharitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the eyelid margin. Symptoms of blepharitis include inflammation of the major part of the eyelids, with crusting or scales at lid margins. Eyelids are usually red, thickened, burning, sore and feel itchy, and may be stuck together in the mornings. Blepharitis can be caused by a bacterial infection (with the crusts being difficult to remove) or due to dermatitis (with the scales more easily removed). Your eyes may be sensitive to light. The condition is often chronic (long lasting) and tends to be associated with dandruff and/or dry eye. Blepharitis is often associated with other conditions such as seborrhoeic dermatitis, acne, rosacea and dry eyes.


A stye (also known as a hordeolum) is caused by an infected gland at the base of your eyelash. This is different to blepharitis in that only a small area of the eyelid is involved. The stye is sore and tender, and your eye may water and be sensitive to light. It can also feel like there is something stuck in your eye, and tenderness and swelling are common.

See Your Pharmacist or Medical Professional

  • if your eye(s) are painful, sensitive to light, you see colour around lights or your sight is affected
  • if you have strangely shaped pupils or cloudy eyes
  • if your eyes have a discharge, such as pus
  • if you have severe crusting of the eyelids that is difficult to remove
  • if you have an associated fever
  • if you have significant swelling of the eyes
  • if you have other symptoms, such as headache, vomiting or a rash
  • if your eyes do not respond to treatment or improve in two days
  • if you have had the problem before and it is continually recurring
  • if you think the problem was caused by something stuck in your eye
  • if you have a cold sore, herpes or shingles
  • if the person with the eye problem is a baby, a young child or elderly
  • if you are pregnant or breastfeeding; some medicines may not be suitable
  • if you have other medical conditions or use other medicines
  • if you have allergies to any medicines
  • if you wear contact lenses
  • if you have distortion or loss of vision
  • if you have redness localised around the iris or pupil
  • if you have a cold, and a clear discharge from your eyes for more than a few days

Treatment Tips

  • do not wear contact lenses if you have an eye infection (e.g. conjunctivitis) or if your eyes are red or irritated; check with your optometrist
  • some eye drops should not be used with contact lenses; check with your pharmacist
  • throw eye drop bottles away one month after opening; mark the date you open them on the bottle (check product details as some eye drops can only be used for shorter periods)
  • if you are using more than one type of eye drops, leave 10 minutes between applications
  • some eye drops can cause temporary stinging; if this continues talk to your pharmacist
  • protect your eyes from wind and sun by wearing sunglasses
  • have a yearly eye check with an optometrist
  • do not use an eye product used by or prescribed for someone else
  • follow the correct technique for applying eye drops or eye ointment

Tips for applying eye drops

  • always wash your hands first
  • pull your lower eyelid down gently with your index finger to form a pocket – tilt your head back slightly and look up
  • hold the bottle between your thumb and index finger and squeeze gently to release one drop into your eye pouch
  • do not touch your eye with the dropper tip
  • do not blink, as this draws eye drops into the tear duct and out of the eye
  • close your eye and press gently over the corner, near your nose, to stop the drops draining through your tear duct
  • wait 10 minutes before adding other eye products
  • apply only one drop at a time into the affected eye unless the first drop was incorrectly administered
  • use eye drops before eye ointment
  • for young children, close eye gently, put a couple of drops on skin at inner corner of eye, near the nose. Tell the child to open their eyes, while tilting head to the side – the drops will run in across the eye

Tips for applying eye ointment

  • to position the tube tip, hold the tube between your thumb and index finger, and rest your hand against the base of your nose
  • apply a small blob of ointment into your lower eyelid pocket
  • do not touch the eye with the tube tip
  • blink several times to spread the ointment

Treatment Options


  • styes clear up on their own once they burst and pus is released; medicines are generally not required
  • carefully pull out the infected eyelash to allow for drainage if possible
  • a warm flannel placed gently over your eye can help the stye get ready to burst
  • do not squeeze, pop, rub or touch your eyelid
  • do not wear makeup or contact lenses until the area has fully healed

Topical antiseptic

e.g. propamidine eye drops (Brolene eye drops)

  • an antiseptic product may prevent an infection occurring once the stye bursts


  • a Lid Care pack (purchased from a pharmacy) may be helpful; this contains an eyelid cleaning solution and pads
  • you can make up a cleaning solution using baby shampoo:
    • put about half a teaspoon of baby shampoo into a bowl of hot water
    • wet a clean cloth with the solution and place the cloth over the eyes as a compress for two minutes
    • clean around the eyelashes gently, using a cotton bud dipped in the warm baby shampoo solution
  • you can make up a cleaning solution using sodium bicarbonate:
    • dilute 1 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate into 250 mL of hot water
    • wet a clean cloth with the solution and place the cloth over the eyes as a compress for two minutes
    • clean around the eyelashes gently, using a cotton bud dipped in the warm sodium bicarbonate solution
  • you can either use a clean cloth each time, or rinse the used cloth in a nappy solution to keep it clean for reuse (make sure you rinse the cloth well before using it again, so the nappy solution does not sting the eyes
  • clean your eyelids in one of these ways twice a day, then less often as the condition clears

e.g. propamadine (Brolene eye drops)

  • this product may clear any bacterial infection
  • some people may be allergic to the contents of eye drops, so check with your pharmacist before taking
  • this medicine should be avoided in pregnancy
  • see your doctor if the condition fails to get better with treatment


e.g. Chloramphenicol 1% eye ointment (Chlorsig eye ointment)

  • available without a script if over the age of 2 years for conjunctivitis. However, a script will be required if for blepharitis. Only to be recommended by doctor if hygiene solutions do not work.
  • apply to the eyelid margin of both eyes, twice daily for 1 or 2 weeks.

More Information

Availability of medicines

  • GENERAL SALE available through pharmacies and possibly other retail outlets.
  • PHARMACY ONLY available for sale through pharmacies only.
  • PHARMACIST ONLY may only be sold by a pharmacist.

Search myDr for Consumer Medicine Information

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Signup to our newsletter
Get all the latest health and lifestyle news straight to your inbox