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January 16, 2022

Eyelash Mites: What to Know

Close up of a woman's eye from the side profile

What are eyelash mites?

Eyelash mites are caused by two types of Demodex mites. The two types are called Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. Both types of mites are microscopic, so you can’t see them with the naked eye. They’re naturally prevalent in your hair follicles, where they feed on dead skin cells. Demodex folliculorum is the most likely to affect eyelashes. These types of mites feed on the dead skin cells around the lashes as well as other areas of the eye, such as your lids. Since eyelash mites aren’t visible, you won’t be able to diagnose their presence on your own. The key is to make an appointment with your doctor if you experience possible symptoms of a mite outbreak around your eyes. Read on to learn what this looks and feels like.

What to look for with eyelash mites

Symptoms of Demodex mites on the eyelashes may include:

  • itchiness in the eyelashes and surrounding skin
  • scaly, rough patches of skin
  • redness around the eyes
  • burning sensation in your eyes
  • worsening skin symptoms or flare-ups, such as in rosacea and eczema (dermatitis)

Advanced symptoms can cause eye inflammation (blepharitis). This can cause other symptoms such as crusty eyelashes, sticky eyes, and frequent blinking. Over time, blepharitis can also lead to eyelash growth abnormalities. Symptoms of eyelash mites only tend to occur if you already have an underlying skin condition or if you have a large infestation. In mild cases, eyelash mites don’t cause any noticeable symptoms.

Causes of eyelash mites

Demodex mites are naturally occurring. Potential causes for eyelash mite outbreaks include other skin conditions, such as rosacea, dermatitis, inflammatory acne, and alopecia.

Are they contagious?

These mites can be contagious. Eyelash mites may spread from contact with others who have them. This can be a result of having close contact with someone else who has a mite infestation in their eyelashes or skin. You’ve also likely been told to never share eye makeup. Such advice is especially relevant with eyelash mites, as they may be spread through mascara, eyelash brushes, and other cosmetics used around the eyelash area.

Treatment for eyelash mites

Before eyelash mite treatment can begin, you’ll first need to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. This is done with a small biopsy where your eyelashes are lightly scraped to collect a sample of oils, tissues, and possible mite exoskeletons. The sample is then looked at with a microscope, since mites can’t be seen with the naked eye. If your doctor does diagnose you with an eyelash mite infestation, they will prescribe a medicated ointment to help trap mites in place and to prevent them from spreading and laying eggs. Additionally, they’ll treat any underlying skin conditions.

How to prevent eyelash mites

Eyelash mites can become problematic, leading to other eye issues if the infestation gets out of control. Good hygiene and eye care health can go a long way to help avoid the mites in the first place.

You can help prevent eyelash mites with the following methods:

  • Never share mascara or any other makeup and cosmetic tools.
  • Wear non-oily makeup and cosmetics only.
  • Wash your face twice per day, also cleansing the eye area gently with water only.
  • Use eyelash wipes daily, especially if you wear makeup or if you have excess debris or oil.
  • Scrub gently with baby shampoo and an eyelash brush, as needed.

When you should see a doctor

If you’re not seeing any improvements despite medical treatments and home remedies, then it may be time to see your doctor for further evaluation. When left untreated, eyelash mites can cause vision problems. They may also lead to dry eye. You should see your doctor if you have any changes in your eyes or vision. Eyelash mites may be just one of the causes to rule out. Contact SightMD today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors to discuss your vision health at one of our convenient locations!