Madarosis is a condition that causes people to lose the hair from their eyelashes or eyebrows. It can affect one side of the face or both sides.
This condition may lead to either complete or partial loss of eyelash or eyebrow hair. That means that it’s possible to lose all the hairs in your eyelashes and eyebrows, or you may only lose some of them, which could result in the appearance of thinning hair in these areas.
Madarosis can also be either non-scarring or scarring. Non-scarring means that the internal hair structures remain, so the hair loss may be reversible. Scarring means that there is more damage, and the hair loss in the eyebrows or eyelashes may be permanent.
Read on to learn more about this condition.
The most common symptom of madarosis is losing hair on your eyebrows and eyelashes. You may also have additional symptoms such as redness or itching, depending on the underlying cause for the hair loss.
Many things can cause madarosis. Both men and women can have this condition, but it’s more common among older adults.
Hansen’s disease (leprosy)
Madarosis is common among people who have Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy. Hansen’s disease is a bacterial infection that affects the skin, eyes, nose, and nerves.
Blepharitis is inflammation that affects the eyelids and can affect the eyelashes. Symptoms of blepharitis may also include dry eyes, itchy and red eyelids, and crust around the eyelids. You may see eyelashes fall out, too.
Trauma to the eyelashes and eyebrows can make them fall out. Physical trauma may include injuries and accidents. Burns or wounds in the eye or eyebrow area can also make the hairs fall out.
Trichotillomania is a mental health condition. People with this condition deliberately pull out hair. Common areas for the hair to be pulled from include the eyelashes, eyebrows, and scalp.
Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections can cause madarosis.
- Viral infections may include herpes simplex and HIV.
- Bacterial infections may include Staphylococcus and syphilis.
- Fungal infections can include ringworm.
If the hair loss is caused by an infection, you may have other symptoms, such as redness, itching, swelling, or pain.
Certain medical treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and laser treatments can make your eyelashes or eyebrows fall out. These treatments can affect hair growth by attacking rapidly growing cells.
Some medications can lead to the loss of eyelashes or eyebrows, including:
- botulinum toxin injections (Botox)
Some genetic conditions can cause madarosis, including:
- Ehlers–Danlos syndrome
- ichthyosiform erythroderma
- ectodermal dysplasia
In some cases, madarosis is a symptom of skin cancer. The loss of eyelashes and eyebrows is more common in malignant or cancerous lesions than in benign or noncancerous ones.
Other diseases and conditions
Diagnosis includes collecting your medical history, symptoms, and doing a physical exam. Your doctor may also recommend additional tests to determine the underlying cause, including:
- blood tests
- skin swabs to test for bacterial infections
- skin scraping to test for fungal infections
- dermoscopy or dermatoscopy to examine the skin with a magnifier
Treatment will depend on the cause of this condition. In some cases, it can be reversed.
If the cause of the madarosis can’t be determined or it doesn’t respond to treatment, there are things you can do to disguise the hair loss, if you choose, including:
- wearing false eyelashes and eyebrows
- using makeup to create eyelashes and eyebrows
- tattooing eyebrows
- hair transplants for eyebrows
- eyelash grafts
- using topical solutions for hair growth
Depending on the cause of madarosis, you may be able to make a complete recovery.
If you have non-scarring madarosis, the eyelashes or eyebrows are more likely to grow back.
Because there are many possible causes for the hair loss, it’s important to see a doctor if you experience madarosis. They can do tests to help rule out possible underlying conditions.