Do your feel your eyes irritated and itchy at times? Are your eyes a bit red, even after waking up? Do your eyes feel dry? Do you notice white flakes on your lashes?
4 December 2018| Last updated on 5 December 2018
If yes, rent-free tenants might be living in your lash roots called Demodex!
Demodex (derived from the Greek words “Demo” meaning lard, and “Dex” meaning (digging worm) are mites that are cousins of spiders and ticks. They are transparent ectoparasites that can live on a person’s face, lash follicles, sebaceous glands and meibomian glands.
They are the shy type so they usually love strolling around ones’ face at night but hide, head down, in our lash roots and/or pores during daytime, feasting on the oil that our own body secretes (sebum and meibum).
On inspection with an eye doctors’ ever reliable slit lamp, they appear as dandruff-like, waxy substance on the lash roots. We actually need to rotate the eyelash and pick the white stuff on the lash roots then check through microscope to confirm if they are demodex or just an annoying dandruff (seborrhea).
Another option is to perform a blepharoexfoliation and we confirm once we see them wriggling out of the lash roots. Demodex are always hungry and feed on the seborrhea, so free food and lodging!
They do not have anus so they just keep on eating until they explode!!! Their sharp claws, together with their exploding friends, creates a havoc on the openings of our glands responsible for secreting the oil that holds the tears from evaporating fast – resulting to dry eyes.
The good news is there is a way for them to leave our faces and lash roots alone without calling the authorities. Facial wash, disposable eyelid hygiene wet tissues or eyelid foam with tea tree oil eradicate these mites. We do not recommend to clean the lashes with tea tree oil alone as it can cause redness and irritation when comes in contact with the eye.
As we always say, prevention is better than cure. Make sure you do your eyelid hygiene everyday to keep your lash roots and lashes free from rent-free tenants. To know if you need to start charging these uninvited guests called Demodex, it is time to visit your eye doctor.
Authored by Dr. Joserine Samson, OD FBCLA
First Fellow of British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) in the Middle East