Blepharitis, otherwise known as an inflammation of the eyelids, is a very common occurrence and usually a tad bit annoying. It is typically caused by the tiny oil glands in your eyelids becoming clogged for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the result is a simple inflammation which is itchy and irritable, other times it can lead to a slightly more serious condition like a stye which is often painful. Over the past few years, a specific cause of blepharitis has gained quite a bit of attention and we thought we’d discuss it and point out the easy solutions.
You are most likely aware that there are microscopic creatures living on our skin and hair follicles. Recent studies estimate that there can be up to 1200 or more mites living within your follicles at any given time, which sounds far worse than it really is.
When we are born we are mite free and it is only as we age that mites begin to accumulate. While how they transfer from person to person is not completely understood, the common belief is that it is through close contact. Most people will live their entire lives without any sort of issue or problem. However, one such mite can cause issues, like blepharitis, which while not life-threatening, can cause severe discomfort and have visual effects on the eyelids and skin.
Demodex is a microscopic mite that nests in and around the eyelids and lashes. It is easily detectable and treatable but of course sounds rather disturbing. A mite nesting on my eyelids? Disgusting! The Demodex mite nests where the eyelashes meet the eyelid and can end up burrowing beneath the skin. Eventually, as the mite colony grows the mites will travel to another eyelash or even to the nose or cheeks. This can cause a pimply effect or a general appearance of rosacea.
Detection of Demodex mites is fairly easy. In the course of an eye examination, your doctor will examine your eyes and lids under a specific microscope (called a slit lamp). Under this magnification, the nests of the mites become readily apparent if they exist in quantities significant enough to cause issues. Once detected removing the mites is a straightforward and pain-free process.
Treatments like Tea Tree Oil (used under a doctor’s instructions) and topical treatments like Cliradex are used to treat blepharitis and remove the mites. A simple scrub of the lids and eyelashes removes the majority of the mites on the initial treatment and then a topical cream is applied for up to four weeks reducing the mite count to virtually zero.
While mites on the eyelids might sound rather disturbing it is quite common and again, easily treatable. Your primary eye care provider can test for them if you are experiencing symptoms like dry eye or itchy and irritated eyelids. If you do not have a primary care provider please check our recommendations for a doctor near you here, or simply call us at 541-343-5000 to schedule an appointment to determine if this might be the cause of your issue.