Your face is crawling with BUGS! Yes, you. In fact, demodex mites live in oil glands and hair follicles all over our bodies. It’s estimated that a typical adult has up to 2,000 of them living on their body at any given time. Even better, arachnophobes, they are members of the spider family. Mostly, this goes on without any adverse affects. They eat oil, sebum, meibum, and dead skin (and maybe live skin cells, too). If an infestation, or overpopulation occurs, then we have a problems. Blepharitis is one of those problems.
Blepharitis is something we see in our practices every day. Some studies have shown that up to a third of our patients have this condition.
It’s often believed this only occurs in an older population, but there’s evidence that it also exists in a younger population. Cylindrical Dandruff, redness, eyelash loss, and other signs of inflammation are all associated with Demodex infestation. In fact, cylindrical dandruff has been shown to be proof-positive of the presence of mites.
Infestation is thought to occur due to immunosuppression, or because they prefer the oil of some people to others. The eye is also a difficult place to clean, and most people don’t spend much time on eyelid hygiene.
I’m often asked about make up and mascara and how it might affect the population of mites. Mascara is made up of pigmentation, oil, and waxes. Since oil is part of a mite diet, greasy or waterproof makeup might very well be a treat for them. It’s been suggested that the mite eggs can live in makeup, allowing them to spread even more. In addition to toothbrushes, contact lenses, and underwear (!!!!!), add makeup to the list of things you should NOT share.
Mites don’t like light, and as such, are most active at night, eating, moving, and reproducing! If this is not not appealing to you, it might be a good idea to remove makeup thoroughly each night, and replace your makeup about every 3 months. If your eyes are constantly red, lids are itchy, or have much awareness of your eyes, get checked for infestation. It’s usually fixable.
Scott E. Schachter, O.D.
Vision Source Administrator