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Demodex Mites (Eyelash Mites): Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Demodex mites or eyelash mites are a type of microscopical parasite that live on the human skin. It is very common and almost all of us have the mite residing in our skin [1] . As they are microscopical, it is not just visible to the human eye. Demodex mites are of two types, Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis and both can be found on the eyelashes. These parasites are also found on the cheeks and nose, and anywhere around the oil glands.

Mostly, the eyelash mites are harmless and go unnoticed by the human eye. The mites are found within your hair follicles[2] , where they survive by feeding off of the dead cells around your lashes and eyelids. Amongst the two, D. folliculorum is the one that is most likely to affect your eyelashes [3] .

Studies have revealed that about 84% of the population aged 60 and 100% of the individuals who are aged 70 and above are infected by these mites. Therefore, it can be easily ascertained that the older you are, higher the chance of getting eyelash mites. Also, Demodex is increasingly found in people who do not adopt good hygiene measures [4] .

The Demodex mites or the eyelash mites are prone to grow in places that may be difficult to reach or routinely clean such as around the cheekbone, eye socket and the sides of the nose. Even though almost all of us have eyelash mites, it can still spread through close contact with humans and animals [5] .

Symptoms Of Demodex Mites

As the parasites are microscopic in size, they are not visible to the human eyes. The following signs can indicate the growth of the mites on your eyelashes [6] .

  • Redness around the eyes
  • Itchiness in the eyelashes and surrounding skin
  • Burning sensation in the eyes [7]
  • Scaly and rough patches of skin (crusting)
  • Blurry vision
  • A sensation of foreign bodies in the area
  • Eyelashes missing
  • Acne
  • Inflammation of the skin[8]

In severe cases, the mites can cause cylindrical dandruff on the skin and eyelashes. The other signs are blepharitis, a condition that causes inflammation of the eyes, crusty eyelashes, along with frequent blinking[9] .

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Demodex is related with rosacea, a skin condition that causes redness on the forehead, nose, cheeks and ears. The connection between the conditions is that individuals who have rosacea are reported to have 18 times more of D. folliculorum mites, in comparison to the people who do not have rosacea [10] .

In some cases, Demodex has been found to worsen the symptoms of rosacea.

Causes Of Demodex Mites

The microscopic mites develop on and around your eyelashes naturally. Rosacea can be accorded as a probable cause resulting in the development of the Demodex mites [11] .

Although there is no singular factor that causes the development of Demodex mites, it can be pointed out as the result of other skin-related problems [12] . Dermatitis, alopecia and inflammatory acne are considered to be the probable causes of the parasite growth.

Some of the other factors related to the growth of Demodex mites are a weakened immune system, skin infections and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) [13] .

When To See A Doctor

In some cases, the eyelash mites have been reported to cause blurry vision. This can cause dryness in the eyes. If your vision gets affected, go to the doctor immediately [14] .

If the signs and symptoms are hindering your daily activities and quality of life, it is time to consult a doctor[15] .

Diagnosis Of Demodex Mites

Before getting the treatment for the condition, it is advisable that you go to a doctor and get it checked out.

For diagnosing the condition, the doctor will conduct a biopsy [16] [17] where your eyelashes will be scrapped lightly so as to collect a sample of tissues, oil and exoskeletons of mites. The collected sample from your eyelashes will be examined under a microscope due to the microscopic nature of the Demodex mites.

The doctor will also examine to see whether the signs are caused by any other skin conditions or infections [18] .

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Treatment For Demodex Mites

As the condition is commonly found in the society, there are several ways through which you can get it treated.

1. Over-the-counter antibiotic treatments

One of the common measures is using antibiotic ointments [19] like tobramycin. You can consult a doctor to choose a safe and effective cream. It is always better to get the recommendation from an ophthalmologist. Apply the medicine with the utmost care and also, ask the doctor about the application [20] .

Home remedies for Demodex mites

2. Eyelid cleansing

The easiest and the best way to prevent the onset of eyelashes mites are by regularly cleaning your eyelids. Clean the edges regularly and properly [21] so that the mites are not given a surviving chance. Do the cleaning with care as the area around your eyes are extremely sensitive and rough handling can cause damage to your eyes and vision. Use a mild cleanser to clean the area, preferably a baby shampoo. Using baby products are advised because it will not cause any severe damage to your eyes [22] .

3. Tea tree oil

Apart from the above-mentioned methods, the other most effective measure against Demodex mites is tea tree oil[23] . You can rub the oil on your lashes before sleeping. Continue this for six weeks and be careful not to get the oil in your eyes[24] .

Prevention Of Demodex Mites

The microscopic parasites can be extremely disturbing and can cause discomfort in your daily life. It can even lead to other skin conditions and eye infections in some cases. The first and foremost step to prevent the onset of these mites is by practising good hygiene and taking care of your eyes [25] .

Some of the ways that you can adopt to stop and prevent the growth of the Demodex mites are as follows.

  • Wash your face twice daily, also gently clean the area around your eye area with lukewarm water only.
  • Do not share cosmetics such as mascara or any other make-up, this includes your make-up tools as well.
  • Make a habit of using eye wipes, especially if you wear make-up or if you have excess debris or oil.
  • Use make-up products and cosmetics that are not oily.
  • Scrub the sides of your eye and eyelashes gently with baby shampoo and an eyelash brush.

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View Article References
  1. [1] Bonnar, E., Eustace, P., & Powell, F. C. (1993). The Demodex mite population in rosacea. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 28(3), 443-448.
  2. [2] Roihu, T., & Kariniemi, A. L. (1998). Demodex mites in acne rosacea. Journal of Cutaneous Pathology, 25(10), 550-552.
  3. [3] Lacey, N., Kavanagh, K., & Tseng, S. C. (2009). Under the lash: Demodex mites in human diseases. The Biochemist, 31(4), 2.
  4. [4] Elston, D. M. (2010). Demodex mites: facts and controversies. Clinics In Dermatology, 28(5), 502-504.
  5. [5] Jarmuda, S., O’Reilly, N., Żaba, R., Jakubowicz, O., Szkaradkiewicz, A., & Kavanagh, K. (2012). Potential role of Demodex mites and bacteria in the induction of rosacea. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 61(11), 1504-1510.
  6. [6] Karincaoglu, Y., Bayram, N., Aycan, O., & Esrefoglu, M. (2004). The clinical importance of Demodex folliculorum presenting with nonspecific facial signs and symptoms. The Journal of Dermatology, 31(8), 618-626.
  7. [7] Gao, Y. Y., Di Pascuale, M. A., Li, W., Liu, D. T. S., Baradaran-Rafii, A., Elizondo, A., ... & Tseng, S. C. (2005). High prevalence of Demodex in eyelashes with cylindrical dandruff. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 46(9), 3089-3094.
  8. [8] Elston, C. A., & Elston, D. M. (2014). Demodex mites. Clinics in Dermatology, 32(6), 739-743.
  9. [9] Wesolowska, M., Knysz, B., Reich, A., Blazejewska, D., Czarnecki, M., Gladysz, A., ... & Misiuk-Hojlo, M. (2014). Prevalence of Demodex spp. in eyelash follicles in different populations. Archives of Medical Science: AMS, 10(2), 319.
  10. [10] Szkaradkiewicz, A., Chudzicka‐Strugała, I., Karpiński, T. M., Goślińska‐Pawłowska, O., Tułecka, T., Chudzicki, W., ... & Żaba, R. (2012). Bacillus oleronius and Demodex mite infestation in patients with chronic blepharitis. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 18(10), 1020-1025.
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  14. [14] Thygeson, P. (1969). Complications of staphylococcic blepharitis. American Journal Of Ophthalmology, 68(3), 446-449.
  15. [15] AYRES, S. (1961). Demodectic Eruptions (Demodicidosis) in the Human: 30 Years' Experience with 2 Commonly Unrecognized Entities: Pityriasis Folliculorum (Demodex) and Acne Rosacea (Demodex Type). Archives of Dermatology, 83(5), 816-827.
  16. [16] Forton, F., & De Maertelaer, V. (2017). Two consecutive standardized skin surface biopsies: an improved sampling method to evaluate Demodex density as a diagnostic tool for rosacea and demodicosis. Acta Dermato-venereologica, 97(2), 242-248.
  17. [17] Forton, F., & De Maertelaer, V. (2019). Rosacea and Demodicosis: Little-known Diagnostic Signs and Symptoms. Acta dermato-venereologica, 99(1).
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  19. [19] Ruini, C., Sattler, E., Hartmann, D., Reinholz, M., Ruzicka, T., & von Braunmühl, T. (2017). Monitoring structural changes in Demodex mites under topical Ivermectin in rosacea by means of reflectance confocal microscopy: a case series. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 31(6), e299-e301.
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