Eyelash Mites (Demodex): Causes and Treatments

Eyelash Mites

A lot of people must be unaware of the fact that eyelashes are host to the eyelash mites. About 98% of the eyelashes of humans contain mites referred to as demodicids. These are usually harmless.

According to scientists, there exists a symbiotic relationship between human beings and the eyelash mites. They state that the eye mites remove the oil and dirt from your hair follicles and you, in turn, let them live on your faces.

What Are Eyelash Mites or Demodex?

Eyelash mites, also referred to as demodex, are a type of parasitic mites that live in mammalian hair follicles. There are approximately 65 different species of demodex, but only two of them- Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevix live on the human body (1). Of these two, Demodex folliculorum is the eye mite, which lives in the hair follicles of the eyelashes.

Eyelash lice are harmless, and the majority of people live their lives without worrying about the fact that a parasite is living in the hair follicles of their face. According to health experts, the elderly are more prone to have these mites as they have a weakened immune system.

Causes of Eyelash Mites: How Do You Get the Eye Mites?

When the number of eyelash mites increase, it can lead to demodicosis, an infection caused by demodex. This occurs especially in the area of the eyelashes and results in falling out of the eyelashes. The facial mites feed on the oil secreted by the human body.

Demodicosis usually occurs in the individuals who secrete excessive oil. Applying too much makeup, especially the eye make-up, can also cause demodicosis.

Advertisement

Eye makeup, especially mascara can result in the growth of germs and bacteria. The situation worsens when individuals go to sleep without removing the makeup. It is estimated that about half of the American population has eye mites as they sleep without removing their eye makeup.

Symptoms of Eyelash Mites (Demodex)

People with healthy immune systems may not show any symptoms of eye mites. However, individuals with weaker immunity can develop the eyelash mites symptoms. There are many reasons behind a weak immune system, including some major illnesses such as HIV or leukemia.

Taking immunosuppressive drugs or by being under stress for longer period can also contribute to weaker immunity. In these cases, the mites multiply quickly leading to visible signs and symptoms, as below:

  • Inflammation and itching in the area of eyelashes, which usually occurs in the morning as these mites come out of the follicle at night time, mate, produce eggs and go back into the follicles in the morning.
  • Blepharitis, an illness characterized by inflammation of the eyelid associated with swollen, itchy, burning, and red eyelids.
  • You may develop rosacea not due to the eyelash mites but due to the bacteria present in their feces.
  • Acne vulgaris can be another symptom of eyelash mites since eyelash lice often lead to the promotion of acne vulgaris.
  • If a lot of eye mites develop in a single hair follicle, then the eyelash may fall out.
  • Severe infestation with face mites may result in skin and eye infection.

Usually, the condition does not require treatment by a doctor. But, if the number of eyelash mites becomes too high and is associated with symptoms of irritation, infection or inflammation of the eyelash area, it is important to consult a doctor.

Eyelash Mites Treatment: How to Get Rid of Eyelash Mites Naturally?

There a number of natural remedies for eyelash mites. Here are some useful natural methods to treat eye mites:

1. Proper Cleansing of the Eyelids

The first method to remove mites on eyelashes is to thoroughly and carefully clean the eyelids. This includes cleaning the edges of the eyelids so as to get rid of all oils that eye mites thrive on. A gentle tea tree shampoo, or baby shampoo or any other special gentle cleansers may be used to make sure that your eyelids are completely clean.

Additionally, you can clean your face two times in a day with no-tear baby shampoo. This may make sure that facial mites are removed from your face.

2. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is one of the best natural treatment for eyelash mites. Rubbing tea tree oil every night on the eyelashes for around six weeks may treat them permanently. Dr. Oz advises this treatment. Tea tree oil is an excellent way to remove eye mites; however, it should be used correctly to prevent it from getting it into the eyes.

Moreover, washing your face with products containing tea tree oil may also help you deal with demodex, particularly if you have the type that lives in sebaceous glands.

Scheffer C.G. Tseng, M.D., the director of the Ocular Surface Research and Education Foundation in Tissue Tech, Miami, also supports the use of tea tree oil (2). Tseng states that the use of scrubs containing tea tree oil seems to remove the mites. If used correctly, tea tree oil can kill not only the mites in the eyelashes but also their eggs present in the follicles.

You can also apply tea tree oil 5% ointment/cream every day on the skin surrounding the eyelids to avoid mating of the mites and their re-infestation.

3. Lavender Oil

Lavender oil can be used like tea tree oil to treat eyelash mites. Rub or apply lavender oil every night on your eyelids before you go to sleep.

4. Avoid the Makeup

Do not use eye make till your eye mites have been completed cured. Throw away the old makeup and purchase new makeup when you restart using eye makeup to prevent contamination. Moreover, avoid sharing your eye makeup.

5. Use OTC Antibiotic Ointments

The next method to get rid of eyelash mites is to use antibiotic ointments. But, before using them, it is advised to ensure they are tested ophthalmologically so that they do not harm your eyes. It is best to consult an ophthalmologist. You can also try Tobradex ointment. Putting 1-2 drops of TetraVisc may be helpful, but you should consult with doctor before trying any over-the-counter ointments.

Advertisement

How to Prevent Eyelash Mites?

Apart from the treatment methods mentioned above, the following are tips that you can follow to get rid of demodex or prevent eyelash mites:

  • If you live with a partner or married, make sure that your partner is also thoroughly checked for mites as the mites can easily spread by casual contact.
  • Make sure that your pets such as dogs or cats are thoroughly checked too since they are also prone to the mites. Though that reside on dogs belong to a separate genus, pets can also host eye mites.
  • Throw away old bed sheets and pillows and buy new ones as these mites may be residing in them and you may get re-infected even after you have been treated.
  • You can try using specialized products available in the markets such as Demodex Lotion Eyes n Mites.
  • Rub your eyelids using Ocusoft Plus Lid Scrub pads (Ocusoft/Cynacon) and let it stay for the whole night. This method has demonstrated good results in removing these mites within 3-4 weeks.

The Takeaway

Facial mites, including eyelash mites, live on your face, particularly in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. They help in removing the dirt and oils from your face.

They are usually harmless. But when they increase in number they can cause signs and symptoms of infection.

Maintaining personal hygiene is extremely important to prevent their occurrence. Always wash your face before going to sleep. You should always use clean makeup brushes and clean mascara wands to ensure that eye mites are not promoted.