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Demodex and Its Effects on the Eyes

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Demodex is a relatively unheard-of creature that is much more common – and closer – than you might think! Demodex is a mite that lives at the base of eyelashes and can cause inflammation and dry eye symptoms. The only way to detect Demodex is through an eye examination and removing an eyelash to examine it under a microscope. To treat a Demodex infection, eyelid cleanser or prescription medication may be used.


What is Demodex?

Demodex is a mite that naturally resides on human skin. These mites are often found in hair follicles and sebaceous glands, particularly in the face and scalp areas.

There are two types of Demodex mites that can inhabit the human body, Demodex brevis which lives in the sebaceous glands in the eyelashes and Demodex folliculorum, which lives on the hair follicles.


How does Demodex cause Blepharitis?

Demodex mites’ presence in the eyelashes has been shown to cause blepharitis, inflammation of the eyelid.

These mites consume the oils secreted by the hair follicles and glands in the eyelashes. As they feed, they excrete waste and toxins, which contributes to the eyelid’s inflammation and cause redness, itching, and a gritty sensation of the eyes.

As the eyes respond to inflammation and toxins, additional symptoms may arise.

Symptoms of Demodex Blepharitis

Common symptoms of Demodex blepharitis include redness, swelling of the eyelids, itching, burning, and loss of eyelids.

Not all of these symptoms may occur, but some combination of the symptoms is likely to develop.

The inflammation that results from the Demodex can lead to redness and swelling of the eyelids along with crusting along the eyelash base.

Toxins that were excreted by the Demodex can cause an allergic reaction that leads to additional redness and itchiness or burning sensation of the eyelids.

With the inflammation and allergic reaction, dry eye symptoms may develop as well. These can include irritation, a gritty sensation, or a feeling as if there is something in the eye.

In the most severe cases, there may even be loss of some of the eyelashes due to the damage from the Demodex.


How Does Dr. Woo Reecommend Treating Demodex?

What is at the base of these eyelids?The crusty stuff you see at the base of the eyelids and lashes is belpharitis and demodex.

This is common inflammatory condition that eye doctors see every single day. Demodex is a collection of eye mites that get overpopulated causing a flakey and scaley appearance.

To treat demodex, a variety of products exist such as OcuSoft, Thea, Optase and Avenova. There are lid cleansers and scrubs and even in office treatments that can help get manage eyelid mites and flakes.

At the end of August there will also be an eye drop that kills the Demodex in just 6 weeks. Yay! Ask your eye doctor what your eyelashes look like under the microscope - more patients have blepharitis or demodex than you think!


Diagnostic tests for Demodex Blepharitis

There are several tests your eye doctor can perform to diagnose Demodex blepharitis, including an eyelid evaluation or a microscopic assessment of the eyelashes.

Eyelid Evaluation for Demodex

An eye doctor may examine your eyelids to look for visible signs of mites and inflammation. Using a slit lamp or other device, there are many opportunities to assess the health of the eyelids.


Microscopic Examination for Demodex

Your doctor may take a sample of your eyelashes and examine them under a microscope to look for the presence of mites.

This is the best way to definitively diagnose if Demodex is responsible for the symptoms and inflammation.


Treatments for Demodex Blepharitis

Some treatment options recommended by eye care professionals include cleaning the eyelids every day using a special cleaning solution recommended by eye care professionals can help control the condition.

If the infestation is severe, eye care professionals may prescribe medications like tea tree oil or ivermectin to kill the mites.



Our eye doctors at Contact Lens Institute of Nevada excel in the treatment and management of scleral lenses, myopia management, orthokeratology (ortho-K) and other custom contact lens solutions. Call our optometrists at 702-747-4070 or schedule an appointment online if you would like to learn more about Demodex.  Our eye doctors, Dr. Stephanie Woo and Dr. Jenny Wong, provide the highest quality specialty contact lens services in the Las Vegas area.

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