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What You Need to Know About Eyelid Mites

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Do you ever feel a persistent itching or irritation around your eyes despite maintaining good hygiene? If so, you might be surprised to learn that tiny creatures called eyelid mites could be the culprit. 

While the mere thought of having mites on your eyelids might make your skin crawl, these microscopic organisms are quite common and usually harmless. They feed on dead skin cells and oils around your eyelashes. However, an overgrowth of these mites can contribute to a condition called blepharitis, which can cause uncomfortable symptoms.

What Are Eyelid Mites?

Eyelid mites, scientifically known as Demodex folliculorum, are microscopic parasites that commonly inhabit the hair follicles and oil glands around the eyelashes and eyebrows of humans. These mites belong to the genus Demodex, which is divided into 2 species: Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis (mites found on the skin):

  • Demodex folliculorum: This species primarily resides in the hair follicles and is longer, usually measuring around 0.3 to 0.4 mm.
  • Demodex brevis: This species is smaller than Demodex folliculorum and typically inhabits the skin’s oil glands (sebaceous glands), including those found in the eyelids.

How Do Eyelid Mites Affect Humans?

While eyelid mites are present in most adults, they typically don’t cause harm or noticeable symptoms unless their population grows excessively. Factors such as poor hygiene, compromised immune function, and certain skin conditions can contribute to an overgrowth of eyelid mites, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Persistent itching around the eyes, particularly in the morning.
  • Redness, inflammation, and irritation of the eyelid margins.
  • A burning sensation or a feeling of grittiness in the eyes.

How Are Eyelid Mites Diagnosed & Treated?

Diagnosing eyelid mite infestation typically involves a thorough examination of the eyelids and eyelashes by a healthcare professional. In some cases, a skin scraping or sampling of eyelash hairs may be performed to identify the presence of mites under a microscope.

Treatment for eyelid mites aims to reduce their population and alleviate symptoms. Common approaches include:

  • Topical treatments: Prescription or over-the-counter ointments, cleansers, or foams containing ingredients like tea tree oil, ivermectin, or permethrin may be recommended to kill mites.
  • Lid hygiene: Practicing good eyelid hygiene, such as gently scrubbing the eyelids with a mild cleanser and using warm compresses, can help remove excess oils and mite debris.
  • Medicated eyelid wipes: Medicated wipes specifically formulated to target eyelid mites can be used to cleanse the eyelids and reduce mite populations.

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy

One promising treatment option for eyelid mites is intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy

IPL emits broad-spectrum light pulses that are absorbed by the mites’ chromophores and exoskeletons. This IPL energy absorption effectively eradicates the Demodex mites and the bacteria they harbor, reducing the bacterial load on the eyelids. 

By targeting the mites around the meibomian (oil) glands in the eyelids, IPL therapy can help alleviate symptoms associated with eyelid mite infestation and improve overall eye health.

How to Prevent Mite Infestation

While complete eradication of eyelid mites can be challenging, specific measures can help prevent their overgrowth and minimize symptoms:

  • Maintain good lid hygiene: Regularly cleanse eyelids and eyelashes with mild cleansers to remove excess oils and debris.
  • Avoid eye makeup contamination: Replace eye makeup regularly, avoid sharing cosmetics, and always remove makeup before bed to prevent mite buildup.
  • Manage Underlying Conditions: Addressing underlying skin conditions like rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis (a skin condition mainly affecting the scalp) can help reduce the risk of eyelid mite infestation.

Eyelid mites are a natural part of the human microbiome. In most cases, they coexist with us without causing any harm. However, if you experience persistent eye irritation or suspect an eyelid mite infestation, appropriate management is recommended, so call your eye doctor for an evaluation.

Find Relief from Itchy Eyes

With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can effectively manage eyelid mites and alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.

If you’ve tried various remedies for itchy eyes and are still experiencing discomfort, it may be time to seek professional help. Our experienced optometrists at Family Focus Eyecare are skilled at diagnosing and treating a wide range of eye conditions, including eyelid mite infestations.

Through comprehensive eye examinations and advanced diagnostic techniques, our optometrists can determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend tailored treatment options to provide relief.Don’t let persistent eye irritation disrupt your daily life any longer—schedule an appointment with one of our optometrists in Eldon or Columbia today to regain comfort and clarity of vision.

Written by Dr. Joseph Rich

Dr. Joseph D. Rich moved to Columbia shortly after completing his doctorate at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. Growing up and completing his undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, and business management at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO, Dr. Rich considers himself a full-fledged Mizzou fan and actively enjoys going to as many games as possible.
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