Eyelash mites are caused by two types of Demodex mites. The two types are called Demodex folliculorumand Demodex brevis. Both types of mites are microscopic, so you can’t see them with the naked eye. They’re naturally prevalent in your hair follicles, where they feed on dead skin cells.
D. folliculorum is the most likely to affect eyelashes. These types of mites feed on the dead skin cells around the lashes as well as other areas of the eye, such as your lids.
Everyone has small amounts of these mites, but they still may be spread between people and animals through close contact. The mites may also become problematic in large quantities, which can then cause further skin issues. They can also aggravate preexisting skin diseases.
Since eyelash mites aren’t visible, you won’t be able to diagnose their presence on your own. The key is to make an appointment with your doctor if you experience possible symptoms of a mite outbreak around your eyes. Read on to learn what this looks and feels like.
Symptoms of Demodex mites on the eyelashes may include:
- itchiness in the eyelashes and surrounding skin
- scaly, rough patches of skin
- redness around the eyes
- burning sensation in your eyes
- worsening skin symptoms or flare-ups, such as in rosacea and eczema (dermatitis)
Advanced symptoms can cause eye inflammation (blepharitis). This can cause other symptoms such as crusty eyelashes, sticky eyes, and frequent blinking. Over time, blepharitis can also lead to eyelash growth abnormalities.
Still, symptoms of eyelash mites only tend to occur if you already have an underlying skin condition or if you have a large infestation. In mild cases, eyelash mites don’t cause any noticeable symptoms.
Demodex also appears to have strong connections with rosacea. According to the National Rosacea Society, people with rosacea have about 18 times more D. folliculorum mites compared with those who don’t have rosacea.
The mites are even considered by some experts to be a direct cause of rosacea. In any case, Demodex can lead to worsening rosacea symptoms in those who are affected.
Demodex mites are naturally occurring. Still, they can come in larger numbers, especially if you have rosacea. Skin mites are currently being investigated as a cause of rosacea.
Other potential causes for eyelash mite outbreaks include other skin conditions, such as dermatitis, inflammatory acne, and alopecia. Skin infections, weakened immune systems, and HIV are also linked to Demodex mites.
These mites can be contagious. Eyelash mites may spread from contact with others who have them. This can be a result of having close contact with someone else who has a mite infestation in their eyelashes or skin.
You’ve also likely been told to never share eye makeup. Such advice is especially relevant with eyelash mites, as they may be spread through mascara, eyelash brushes, and other cosmetics used around the eyelash area.
Before eyelash mite treatment can begin, you’ll first need to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. This is done with a small biopsy where your eyelashes are lightly scraped to collect a sample of oils, tissues, and possible mite exoskeletons.
The sample is then looked at with a microscope, since mites can’t be seen with the naked eye.
If your doctor does diagnose you with an eyelash mite infestation, they will prescribe a medicated ointment to help trap mites in place and to prevent them from spreading and laying eggs. Additionally, they’ll treat any underlying skin conditions.
Tea tree oil may be another option for treating Demodex mites in the eyelash area.
One 2013 study found that the active ingredient terpinen-4-ol killed Demodex. You can clean your eyelashes with 50 percent diluted tea tree oil, which is available over the counter. The Mayo Clinic recommends doing this once a week.
Eyelash mites can become problematic, leading to other eye issues if the infestation gets out of control. Good hygiene and eye care health can go a long way to help avoid the mites in the first place.
You can help prevent eyelash mites with the following methods:
- Never share mascara or any other makeup and cosmetic tools.
- Wear non-oily makeup and cosmetics only.
- Wash your face twice per day, also cleansing the eye area gently with water only.
- Use eyelash wipes daily, especially if you wear makeup or if you have excess debris or oil.
- Scrub gently with baby shampoo and an eyelash brush, as needed.
If you’re not seeing any improvements despite medical treatments and home remedies, then it may be time to see your doctor for further evaluation.
You should also make an appointment if your rosacea or eczema worsens. Call your doctor right away if your symptoms are affecting your overall quality of life.
When left untreated, eyelash mites can cause vision problems. They may also lead to dry eye. You should see your doctor if you have any changes in your eyes or vision. Eyelash mites may be just one of the causes to rule out.
Demodex mites are common, with D. folliculorum affecting the eyelashes and surrounding area the most. While it’s completely natural to have these mites in your skin in moderate levels, infestations can cause the mites to get out of control, causing uncomfortable symptoms around your eyes.
Sometimes compounding the issue of eyelash mites are underlying skin diseases, including rosacea. Skin infections and uncontrolled eczema may also worsen your symptoms, as well as future infestations.
When detected early, Demodex mites are easy to treat. If you have rosacea, you may need to get tested for the mites on a regular basis. As a rule of thumb, you should see your doctor in the case of any new or worsening symptoms.
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