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Eyelash Lice: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Eyelash lice are small insects that live and lay eggs on eyelashes. 

They are usually the same type of louse found in armpit hair and the pubic region. They are passed along from person to person from contact to the infested region. 

Eyelash lice make the area surrounding the eyelashes extremely itchy, which can lead to other common symptoms. There are several effective treatments for the removal of eyelash lice.

What Are Eyelash Lice?

There are three types of lice: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. Eyelash lice, or phthiriasis palpebrarum, are relatively rare and typically an iteration of pubic lice

Although they are the same as pubic lice, an eyelash louse lives on the eyelashes. Regardless of the location, pubic lice have a three-stage life cycle.

The Life Cycle of the Pubic Louse

The average life cycle of a public louse (and thereby also an eyelash louse) looks like this:

The Egg Stage

A female pubic louse has a lifespan of 3 to 4 weeks. During that time, the louse will lay around 30 to 80 eggs (nits) on the shaft of a piece of hair. A substance is also secreted by the louse that clings onto the egg, securing it to the hair. The eggs hatch after 6 to 10 days and are then referred to as nymphs.

The Nymph Stage

Nymphs can take up to three weeks to mature into adults after hatching. During this time, they feed on the blood of the host to survive and undergo three skin shedding molts. After the third molt, the nymph is fully grown and capable of reproducing.

The Adult Stage

An adult pubic louse reproduces and starts the life cycle all over again. They are 1.5 to 2.0 mm long and have a flattened, broad shape. Just like the nymphs, adult lice also feed on human blood and die within 48 hours after being removed from the host.

Symptoms of Eyelash Lice

All types of lice, including eyelash lice, can cause intense irritation and itching. However, eyelash lice also have their own exclusive symptoms. These can include the following:

  • Inflamed and watery eyes
  • Sticky and clumpy eyelashes
  • Blurry vision
  • Dark spots on the eyelashes
  • Ocular burning sensations
  • Heavy eyelids

Causes of Eyelash Lice

Eyelash lice infestation can be transferred by hand contact from the affected pubic or armpit region to the eye. Bedsheets or other objects could come into close contact with the affected area and can also help the lice spread to the eyelashes. 

Can You Get Eyelash Lice With Eyelash Extensions?

Inadequate cleaning of eyelash extensions and the surrounding area can cause a demodex infestation. 

Although a demodex infestation’s symptoms are similar to pubic lice that has spread to the eyelashes, demodex are actually parasitic mites that live inside the follicles of the head. They are not visible to the naked eye, unlike the bigger eyelash lice. 

Diagnosing Eyelash Lice

You can potentially diagnose eyelash lice on your own at home, but it’s best to get an official diagnosis from a medical professional.

Self-Diagnosing

If a person starts to develop symptoms of eyelash lice, they can most likely self-diagnose themselves by looking closely at a louse through a magnifying glass. 

The aforementioned eyelash mites and other eye ailments, such as blepharitis or chalazia, have similar symptoms to eyelash lice. However, a person with eyelash lice would be able to see an actual louse and maybe even the small, oval-shaped eggs at the shaft of the eyelash.

Medical Professional Diagnosis.

If a person starts developing symptoms of eyelash lice and they progressively get worse, medical treatment is advised. A doctor can diagnose eyelash lice by examining the eyelashes with a slit lamp microscope, which is able to get a clear view of the eggs and lice.

How Do You Get Rid of Eyelash Lice?

There are several methods and products that can treat eyelash lice, but the most common treatment is to apply petroleum jelly and 1% permethrin shampoo. Both items can be prescribed by a doctor. Regular-grade petroleum jelly and various permethrin shampoos can also be purchased over the counter and used. 

The following steps should be taken at least two to four times a day when treating eyelash lice: 

  • Thoroughly wash all bedding, clothes, towels, and any other items that may have been exposed to the eyelash lice.
  • Apply an ample amount of petroleum jelly to the eyelid.
  • After about two hours, the permethrin shampoo should be applied.
  • Wait for 10 minutes between both applications on the eyelids. Then, carefully wash the eyelids clean. 
  • Repeat this process for up to 10 days.

In the rare case that this process is ineffective from removing all of the eyelash lice, further medical attention is needed. A doctor may prescribe anti-parasite medications or even trim down the eyelashes, so the lice have nowhere to live. 

How to Prevent Eyelash Lice

Preventing eyelash lice requires not exposing the eyelashes to anything that may have had contact with lice in the pubic or armpit regions. It is also recommended to do the following:

  • Practice good hygiene habits, such as cleaning the eyelashes and surrounding areas regularly.
  • Rotate towels and bedsheets with clean ones.
  • Avoid using makeup and other cosmetic applications that are being shared.

If an infestation is not prevented, eyelash lice can be effectively treated and easily prevented in the future with good hygiene habits.

References

  1. Antiparasitic Drugs. (June 2022). StatPearls.

  2. Crab Lice Infestation in Unilateral Eyelashes and Adjacent Eyelids: A Case Report. (November 2021). World Journal of Clinical Cases.

  3. Doctors Warn That Eyelash Extensions Are Helping Lice Spread. (November 2019). New York Post.

  4. Human Demodex Mite: The Versatile Mite of Dermatological Importance. (February 2014). Indian Journal of Dermatology.

  5. Phthriasis Palpebrarum Mimicking Lid Eczema and Blepharitis. (November 2009). Journal of Ophthalmology.

  6. Pubic Lice Fact Sheet. Texas Department of State Health Services.

  7. Pubic Lice (Pthirus Pubis): History, Biology and Treatment vs. Knowledge and Beliefs of US College Students. (February 2009). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

  8. Treatment of Phthiriasis Palpebrarum and Crab Louse: Petrolatum Jelly and 1% Permethrin Shampoo. (September 15). Case Reports in Medicine.

  9. What Is a Slit Lamp? (April 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  10. Phthiriasis Palpebrarum: A Case of Eyelash Infestation With Pthirus Pubis. (March 2017). Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine.

Last Updated December 20, 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.