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Eyelash Mites: Signs, Causes, and Treatments

Eyelash mites are normal parasites for the human body, but they cause issues in one specific body part: eyelashes.

eyelash mites

Mites grip hair follicles at the base of the eyelash. Someone with mites typically does not know it unless the number of mites is unusually large. The mites feed on oily skin, dead skin cells and skin waste.

Mites are contagious, and treatments include home remedies like tea tree oil and prescription medications .

What Are Eyelash Mites?

Eyelash mites are microscopic parasites that reside naturally in the human body but present themselves at the base of eyelashes. Mites have four pairs of legs, which they use to grip hair follicles. Unless they appear in large numbers, these invisible organisms are usually harmless.

You can have them in your eyes without ever noticing. They like oily parts and feed on dead skin cells and skin waste. There are two types of eyelash mites

  • Demodex folliculorum, which are found on the hair follicle of the eyelash
  • Demodex brevis, which are found deeper inside the sebaceous gland or skin oil

These two types are found only in humans. In case of a heavy infestation, you may start feeling discomfort in the eyes. They can also affect your vision if not treated.

Symptoms

Each type of eyelash mite causes different symptoms. The Demodex folliculorum causes symptoms at the front of the eye (anterior blepharitis) including: 

  • Dry eye
  • Itchiness
  • Blurry vision
  • Sticky or crusty eyelashes after waking up
  • Rough skin around the eye
  • Watery eyes
  • Swollen eyelids

Severe symptoms may also occur, including:

  • Conjunctivitis
  • A burning sensation inside the eye
  • An appearance of abnormal eyelash
  • Falling eyelashes

The Demodex brevis is responsible for causing symptoms at the back of the eye (posterior blepharitis). This mite blocks the Meibomian gland in the eyelid. As a result, you may feel the presence of a foreign body in your eyelids. Some people develop a swelling called eyelid cyst or chalazion. 

Causes of Eyelash Mites

Our bodies are a home to many microorganisms. Eyelash mites happen to be among the parasites present in the body. Generally, these parasites help by removing excess oil and cleaning dead skin. Their presence in small quantities can be beneficial.

Eyelash mites are contagious. You can get them through close contact with someone who has them. Also, you’re likely to get them when you share eyelash brushes or face products with someone who has them.

Someone with mites can spread them, as adult mites or larva, to others. Dusty areas may also contain eggs which can find their way to people.

Risk Factors

The possibilities of getting eyelash mites are higher if you:

  • Have oily skin
  • Have poor hygiene
  • Wear makeup
  • Don’t remove makeup at night

You may also get eyelash mites if you have pre-existing conditions such as:

  • Dermatitis
  • Alopecia
  • Inflammatory acne
  • Weak immunity

Older adults have a higher tendency to have more eyelash mites as do their caregivers.

Diagnosis

Your eye doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms. The doctor will also look for swelling and red eyelids.

Doctors check for the mites with a light beam. By shining this light on the eyelashes, doctors can see a waxy substance at the base of the lash. This substance is an indication of Demodex infestation.

Alternatively, your doctor can take samples of your eyelashes and examine them under a microscope. 

Treatments

Treatment of eyelash mites involves both medical treatment and home remedies. If the infestation is mild, you can try over-the-counter medicines or home remedies. But for severe infestations, medical treatment may be a better option.

Home Remedies for Mild Infestation

The National Eye Institute recommends home remedies that include:

  • Cleaning your eyes using water and baby shampoo or other mild cleansers.
  • Washing your eyes at least twice a day.
  • Scrubbing the crust gently from your eyes.
  • Using warm compresses to loosen crust from your eyelids.

Home Remedies for Severe Infestation

Sometimes after cleaning your eyes, eyelash mites may keep coming back. If this happens, you can try these remedies:

  • Discard eye makeup you used before the infestation.
  • Stop using eye makeup until you recover from the infestation.
  • Use lubricating drops or artificial tears to treat dry eyes.
  • Maintain a regular schedule for eyelid cleansing.
  • Use shampoos to control dandruff.

Along with these home remedies, your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Avenova
  • Blephadex
  • Cliradex

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil treatment involves soaking the oil on a wiper or cleanser and rubbing the closed eyelid. Keep the eyelid closed for a while after wiping. The eyelid has thin skin, so it’s wise to dilute the oil to avoid a stinging sensation.

Avenova

This cleanser helps provide quick relief from eyelid redness and inflammation. Treatment involves wiping your eyelids with wet cotton wools. You can use different cotton wools for each eye and rub each eye several times.

Blephadex

Blephadex is a cleanser that uses coconut oil and tea tree oil to treat eyelash mites. It requires a single application every day.

Cliradex

This eyelid cleanser has tea tree oil as one of its ingredients. It’s available in wipes and foams. You can apply it twice a day for a few weeks.

Prevention

Maintaining good personal hygiene is the first step to preventing eyelash mites. Clean your lashes every day and wipe the eyelids gently when you shower. In addition, avoid sharing your makeup products with others. Also, after using eye makeup, make sure you clean your makeup tools.

If you have eyelash mites, clean your beddings in hot water to kill the mites and their eggs.

Complications

Eyelash mites may worsen pre-existing conditions such as rosacea rashes, acne, and dermatitis patches. If you have a heavy infestation, you may also get demodicosis. Symptoms of demodicosis include:

  • Red skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Sensitive skin
  • Scales on the hair follicles

In case of complications, your doctor can recommend a specific cream for treating the mites.  

FAQs

How do you know if you have eyelash mites?

You can tell you have eyelash mites because of symptoms such as dry eyes, blurry vision, sticky or crusty eyelashes and red and swollen eyelids. You may also feel itchiness, experience a stinging sensation and have abnormal eyelash growth.   

How do I get rid of eyelash mites?

You can get rid of eyelash mites through home remedies or medical treatment. Home remedies include regular eye cleaning and the application of ointments. Frequently wiping the eyelids with diluted tea tree oil can help remove eyelash mites.

Does everyone have eyelash mites?

Almost everyone has eyelash mites, but they’re harmless in small quantities. Babies are not born with them, but they get them from their mothers. In the teenage years, eyelash mites begin to increase because of the high production of oil-producing glands. The likelihood of having mites increases with age.

References

  1. Pathogenic Role of Demodex Mites in Blepharitis. (October 2010). Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 

  2. Blepharitis. (August 2020). National Eye Institute.

Last Updated April 4, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.