That’s right. There are tiny creatures residing on your eyelashes. They crawl around, having tea, forming unions, and going about their. . . .well. . . .business, right on your eyelids.
More specifically your eyelashes.
Put down the tweezers and alcohol.
There’s no need to panic.
These creatures are fairly normal and typically don’t cause problems. You’ve probably had them most of your life, though they’re rarely found on babies and small children.
What Are Eye Mites?
First of all, let us assure you, the mites don’t necessarily cause any problems, but having too many can cause irritation or inflammation of the eye area.
Demodex folliculorum is a parasite that is found in the hair follicles of our faces. They can be found on the nose, cheeks, and especially on the eyelash area. They are usually harmless and most people go about their business without ever noticing they’re there.
The little buggers are too small to be seen with the naked eye. In fact, they’re so tiny that there may be as many as 25 different mites on just one eyelash follicle.
They’re sort of like Gremlins, in that they don’t like the light. They usually come out to play and mate at night while you’re sleeping in the dark and crawl around on your skin (not to make them sound any creepier). They crawl face-down into hair follicles and eat the waste oils and skin cells that accumulate from our skin.
Females are slightly bigger and rounder than males. Fertilization happens internally (like humans). Their favorite mating time is at night. It’s more romantic that way, right?
Some scientists actually believe the relationship may be symbiotic. Their argument is that the bugs take away dirt and oil from our follicles.
Where Do Eye Mites Come From?
Anyone can get the parasite, though they’re not ever found on newborns. Older people are more likely to get them because their immune system is weaker. It’s estimated that over 80% of Americans have them. “These little mites, Demodex, are found everywhere,” explains Norman Herskovich, an optometrist at Elite Family Eye Care in Fort Lauderdale. “They are without question on floors. So we will step on these mites – transfer them from one location to another.”
They also tend to be more prevalent on people that own pets. “As far as pet owners,” begins Herskovich, “I have seen, in my experience, pet owners tend to have more Demodex in their eyes than non-pet owners, although it’s totally possible to not have contact with pets and still get these.” Don’t go ditching Fluffy, though. The mite that affects pets is a different type of Demodex, but human eyelash mites may sometimes be hosted by pets.
When Eye Mites Cause Problems
Sometimes the presence of the Demodex mite can cause irritation, inflammation, or infection. It’s only then that a doctor will choose to treat them. These symptoms usually occur when there are too many mites on one follicle. When this happens, the condition is known as demodicosis. Sometimes too many mites on one follicle may cause the eyelashes to fall out.
The issue is often caused by too much secretion of oils or the application of excessive makeup. It can definitely be made worse by not washing your face before you go to sleep. It’s estimated that many Americans have the parasite, simply because they sleep with their eye makeup on.
Typically people won’t have problems unless they have a weakened immune system or are dealing with a lot of stress.
Symptoms of Eyelash Mites
- Inflammation or itching, usually worse in the morning.
- Eye or skin infection
- Loss of eyelashes
Treating Eyelash Mites
The most important thing that you can do is to keep your face clean. That includes washing it thoroughly twice daily, being especially careful to remove any eye makeup before bedtime. You’re looking to rid your lids and edges of the oils that the mites eat. (Yay! Starving bugs!)
Sometimes your ophthalmologist may prescribe an antibiotic ointment made especially for the eyes.
Tea tree oil is great for removing mites from the eyelashes if used consistently at night. Be careful not to get the oil into the eyes.
Cliradex eyelid cleansers by Bio-Tissue are natural, preservative-free, deep cleansers specially formulated for the eyelid, lashes, and face. They are formulated with 4-Terpineol (or Terpinen-4-ol), which is the most important component of tea tree oil. Cliradex products come in easy-to-use forms like a gentle foaming cleanser and facial towelettes.
They provide a natural, preservative-free way to cleanse the eyelashes, eyelids, and face, helping to relieve symptoms associated with Demodex, as well as blepharitis, Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, rosacea, dry eye, Chalazia, and other lid-margin diseases.