Disclaimer: The following advice is meant for educational and informative purposes only. If you are suffering with an eyelid pathology, please see a licensed healthcare practitioner.
Swollen Eyelid? It’s curable!
Toward the end of my acupuncture program, I developed an eyelid disorder known as blepharitis. Blepharitis is characterized by swelling and inflammation of the eyelid and its related glands, such as the meibomian glands. Blepharitis can affect one or both eyelids, the upper or lower, and the inner or outer, depending on the glands that are irritated. Blepharitis can be concomitant with a chalazion, a more bulbous swelling of the eyelid gland that resembles a pimple.
Blepharitis can produce edema of the eyelid, which results in a diffuse swelling of the periorbital flesh. The occlusion of the eyelid glands can impair the lubricant oils from reaching the eye, and dry eye can result. Itchiness, irritation and changes in visual acuity can arise.
Blepharitis specifically afflicts the eyelid, and is not a disease of the eye like conjunctivitis (Pink eye). In other words, your eye will remain relatively healthy, even though the eyelid is swollen. However, Pink eye can trigger Blepharitis, and vice versa, by inflaming the local glands. If you have significant burning pain in the eye that, it is important to seek a professional opinion.
Blepharitis has many causes, such as: stress, autoimmune disorders like MGD and Sjogren’s, environmental allergies, dietary causes, bacterial infection, injury to the eyelid, and even bad glasses or outdated contact lenses. Research has shown that a small skin parasite known as Demodex has some involvement in many cases of blepharitis. Research has also shown that Metabolic Syndrome and digestive disorders have an association with increased incidence of blepharitis. No matter the cause of blepharitis, the cure is usually the same: hot compresses and massage to move congealed oils stuck in the clogged glands.
If There’s Pain, Seek a Professional Opinion
I personally had no pain when dealing with blepharitis / chalazion, with the exception of occasional irritation due to drainage of the swollen glands. If there is significant pain, I highly encourage you to seek a physician’s opinion, as you might have a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics to cure the issue.
If it isn’t a Bacterial infection, Try Holistic Medicine
My eyelid issue was very frustrating. The draining was very slow and it didn’t seem to be healing on its own. So, I quickly turned to my resources as an acupuncturist. I had several tools I used to cure my eyelid: guasha, acupuncture, acupressure/ tuina, magnets, herbal teas and herbal compresses, as well as smokeless moxibustion. With the exception of acupuncture, you can do just about all of these therapies for yourself.
Defining the Therapies
Acupuncture – Using acupuncture at periorbital points can help relieve inflammation, stimulate circulation and improve immunological functions in the body. It can be used to help regulate hormones, according to the individuals needs.
Guasha – Using a soft edged tool to stroke and massage the lymph / blood vessels. Guasha relieves inflammation and can help dredge out adhesions in the muscles and fascia. I used a homemade frankincense and myrrh salve to reduce friction with Guasha. You can find it here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/773291144/frankincense-myrrh-salve
Jade Rolling – Using a cosmetic tool to help increase circulation around the eyelid. Roll it across the eyebrow, under the eyes, and softly across the eyelids with the eyes closed.
Acupressure – Using your fingers or a tool to apply pressure into muscles and therapeutic points of the body. Gently press and massage around the eyelid, several times a day. This is best done after hot compresses.
Herbalism – Using (safe) herbs as tea or poultices to assist the body in healing. Salves, essential oils, and even homeopathy can help. I highly recommend Similasin Eye Relief Drops to help remove excess debris from the eyelid, and to maintain hydration of the eye.
Hot Compress – Warming a damp towel, and applying it to the affected eyelid. A warm tea bag can also be used, but the tea could irritate the eye, so be very careful.
Facial QiGong – Doing facial exercises that move the eyes, eyebrow, forehead and periorbital muscles, can really assist the body in moving stagnant fluids. Furrowing the brow, and raising the eyebrows, widening the eyes and blinking tightly. As always, if there’s pain, stop doing the exercise or therapy and seek assessment.
Hot compresses are perhaps the most important treatment method. The goal is to heat the fluids and oils that had congealed in the eyelid. The glands of the eyelid, like the meibomian gland, are tiny and they are very close to the skin surface. This makes it easier for the oils to solidify, as they near room temperature more speedily.
I recommend steeping a peppermint tea bag, then using the hot tea bag as a compress on the eyelid. Apply it often, and when the eyelid is well heated, do gentle & vigorous massage around the brow and lid. Another great idea is to get a hot towel warmer, and to have many hot towels to use throughout the day.
It Might Get Worse Before It Gets Better
As the fluid is heated and circulated through the eyelid, the gland might expand and turn into a chalazion. This can be distressing, but also indicative that things are moving. Do not get anxious—just keep heating and gently massaging to promote fluid. However, if you feel PAIN or BURNING—this is a good sign there is infection, and you should contact an Ophthalmologist, MD or OD for topical antibiotics and special care.
Jade Rolling & Facial Guasha: An Important Hygiene Method for those with Blepharitis
For people who suffer with eyelid disorders like blepharitis, there’s some bad news: it is often chronic and must be managed for our whole lives. For this reason, it is important to add in hygiene methods for the eyelids. Facial guasha is a method of Chinese bodywork that uses a soft-edge tool to promote circulation in the muscles and fascia. It is like combing the muscles. Jade rolling is very similar—it uses a stone tool to dredge out the lymphatic build-up in the tissues of the face.
By doing this daily, you can maintain a healthy flow of fluids in the face, and avoid toxic build-up in the eyelid glands. Check out this following video to see how to use Guasha for eyelid disorders!
Go to Your Doctor, but Don’t Buy into Gimmicks
If you have blepharitis, it is important to get a professional opinion from a healthcare provider. Blepharitis can come from more serious infections, and might require special interventions and medicines for complete resolution. This is especially true if you have significant BURNING, BLEEDING or BLINDNESS. Seek care immediately if those symptoms are present.
If you have seen a professional and they declared your eyelid condition a non-emergency, then the information in this blog should be safe to apply.
I am currently doing research on blepharitis. My goal is to show how acupuncture and guasha might expedite the healing of eyelid disorders like blepharitis. Research consistently points to heat compresses and massage as being the most reliable intervention for blepharitis. However, new tools like “LipiFlow” are being manufactured to do heat and massage for people are exorbitantly priced—over $500 for session series!
For those of us that lack the insurance or money to spend on such a process, we can rely on these simple techniques of tea-bag compresses and facial guasha & acupressure. It takes dedication and consistency, but you can heal your eyelid!
Also, try acupuncture from a qualified practitioner. They might have herbs that can help address the underlying issue, bringing you a greater quality of life and long-term relief.
Not Healing? You Might Not Have Blepharitis
Since I originally wrote this, and began working with eyelid issues, many people have contacted me who said they had blepharitis, when it clearly was something else. For example, many people develop hard cysts on the eyelid. These are called Intratarsal Keratinous Cysts, and they are not blepharitis. You will need to see an ophthalmologist who can surgically excise the cyst.
A clear way to know if you have an IKC, and not a chalazion or blepharitis, is if the swelling does not respond to these therapies. If you are doing facial massage, guasha, herbs, and so on, and the bump on your eyelid is not going away, you probably have an IKC.
In more dire circumstances, these eyelid swellings can actually be related to Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia. It is really important to get a professional opinion from an ophthalmologist about your eyelid swelling, especially if it doesn’t begin to resolve within a couple months, or sooner.
Have Questions? Reach out to me.
If you are struggling with an eyelid issue, and you have had a physician rule out serious issues, feel free to contact me (if you are seeking holistic treatment and TCM therapies for Blepharitis, Chalazion and other eyelid disorders). I would love to help you!
Stay positive and you will heal your eyelid.