News agencies love reporting medical horror stories. They generate a certain morbid intrigue and can hit uncomfortably close to home sometimes. Take this story coming out of Hubei Province in China at the end of 2017, for example.
Ms. Xu and Her Colony of Eyelash Mites
We’ve probably all heard that our skin is home to microscopic creatures like benign bacteria and mites. These tiny critters go about their lives, eating, secreting, and reproducing, literally right under our noses. Most of the time we give this little thought – or at least we try NOT to think about it. When these critters get out of control, however, and you start dealing with increasingly severe symptoms of irritation, as in Ms. Xu’s case, it is time to take action.
According to the Daily Mail who reported from Chinese media outlets,1 a woman identified only as Ms. Xu had suffered from itching, crusty, and inflamed eyes for over two years. She says she got used to living with the irritation and therefore did not seek professional treatment. All that she used was over-the-counter eye drops for the itchiness. When the discharge became so thick that it began sticking her eyelashes together, however, she finally relented and went to see a doctor.
Doctors diagnosed Ms. Xu with blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid) and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctival glands at the base of the eye). Upon closer examination, they were shocked to find more than one hundred mites living in her eyelids. One single eyelash follicle reportedly contained a happy family of ten individual mites.
What Are Eyelash Mites?
Demodex mites, also known as eyelash mites, are actually extremely common. Recent studies suggest that nearly all adults have at least a few living in the skin around their eyes. Eyelash mites spend most of their lives within hair follicles and oil glands where they eat oil and skin cells, and only come out at night to search for mates. However, certain environmental conditions or a depressed immune system can lead to an overpopulation of mites.
Overpopulation of mites to the point where they start causing irritation and even damage is called demodecosis. This in turn can trigger a local inflammatory reaction and a host of related eye and skin disorders. It is now thought that demodecosis actually causes or contributes to a significant number of cases of dry eye disease, rosacea, blepharitis, and dermatitis.2
In Ms. Xu’s case, she finally admitted to doctors that she had not washed her pillow case in five years, allowing the mites to flourish. Though, like many people, she likely already had demodex mites for a while beforehand, a lack of regular cleaning had allowed their population to explode. After being put on treatment, and presumably given a lesson on the importance of routine hygiene, Ms. Xu has reportedly made a full recovery.
While this is an extreme case, unlike anything doctors had seen before, this story still serves as a reminder that proper ocular hygiene is very important. It is also important to see an eye doctor or an optician as soon as you notice symptoms of eye irritation that are not going away on their own. The longer you wait to address the situation, the harder the cause of your problems will be to clear up. Keep your eyes clean and mite-free with Cliradex, an beneeffective and safe product for addressing nasty eyelash mites. Don’t become the next eye health gross-out story.
- Malm S. Woman’s ‘itchy eyes’ problem turns out to be caused by a hundred parasites living in her EYELASHES after she went without washing her pillow cases for five years. Daily Mail. December 12, 2017, 2017.
2. Liu J, Sheha H, Tseng SC. Pathogenic role of Demodex mites in blepharitis. Current opinion in allergy and clinical immunology. 2010;10(5):505-510.