Southwest, FL | Red Itchy Eyes from Mites in Eyelashes | Cataract & Refractive Institute of Florida

Dr. Croley discusses Demodex mites causing red itchy eyelids and asociated with blepharitis. Eyes and eyelids that are red, irritated, and itchy may have mites causing their symptoms. The mites are a member of the arachnoid family.


Dr. Croley: Hello and welcome to Case of the Day. I'm Dr. Croley and today we're going to discuss something that some people might think is a little gross but some other people might think it's a little funny and interesting.

Dr. Croley: We're going to discuss what's called Demodex, which is a tiny little organism that actually stays around your eyelashes and burrows down into the follicle of the lash. Then at nighttime crawls out, and can crawl across your face, and around your eyelids. There's even some evidence that Demodex may be a cause, or part of the cause, of rosacea. That as these things crawl across your face, and then die, their body fluids cause a reaction on your skin, which could lead to rosacea. So there's some studies that have shown that as well, but we see a lot of people who have Demodex. It's more commonly around the eyelashes.

Dr. Croley: Basically what happens is is that people who have blepharitis... That is normally your eyelashes are nice and clean but in people who have blepharitis they got crusting and mattering all around your lashes. The glands here are infected in the lid. It's a chronic disease in a lot of people. An old term used to be granulated eyelids and so blepharitis is very common. People sometimes have it for years and just never really do much about getting rid of it. So Demodex occurs in a lot of people who have this blepharitis or if you have red itchy eyes you could have Demodex in your eyelashes.

Dr. Croley: The Demodex is a tiny little organism that's about 1/3 of a millimeter. Like almost microscopic in size. All sort of semi clear looking. Has eight legs. So I'm actually going to show you a model of this. This is a big model. So you have this thing, a lot smaller, but crawling around inside around your lashes and across your face at night. So this Demodex burrows head down into the eyelash follicle. Then supposedly, they're still not known for sure, but feeds on either cells or tissue down in the hair follicle. Then comes out at night.

Dr. Croley: Then their lifecycle's pretty short, so they reproduce on your skin. Then they die. Then the body material, waste material, is then causes inflammation. Of course them being there and down in your lashes cause inflammation as well too. So this, like I said, is a close member of the spider family or arachnid family.

Dr. Croley: They're sometimes very difficult to treat. We have a new product that just came out on the market to try to clean lashes off. So we have this little... It looks like a little drill or pen. On the end of it it has a little sponge. So it's a tiny little sponge. It spins around like a drill and we can clean all this stuff off your lashes, and lids, and then get all this matter cleaned off so then you can get down to the Demodex. We use an antiseptic soap that can even kill them somewhat.

Dr. Croley: Some treatments also are tea tree oil application to the lids to kill the Demodex. Another way you can try to control it is to really goop up your eyelids with an ointment at night. Then trap them as they come out at night into the ointment. But the main thing is just keeping your lids really clean. We have some cleaning pads called OCuSOFT that are an antiseptic pad that cleans off the lashes as well.

Dr. Croley: Anyway you don't realize it, but a lot of people have this. But you have this stuff crawling around on your lashes and lids at night. For some people that's pretty gross, but it's extremely common in some areas. Anyway if you have red itchy eyes you may want to have your eye doctor check to make sure that you don't have Demodex in your eyelashes. If they... Not visible on the surface you can always pluck out an eyelash and see if they're down in the hair follicle, so that's another way to diagnose it. If you have red itchy eyes you might want to get it checked. You might have that Demodex crawling around there.

Dr. Croley: Otherwise may God grant you with healthy eyes and great vision. Have a great day.