Many complain of red, irritated and sometimes swollen eyelids. Dr. Harvey, ophthalmologist at Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic says, often the underlying problem can be eye mites. Check out his response to our questions below:

Q:DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY HAVE BUGS LIVING IN THEIR EYELASHES?

A: “Yes, they do! Staph and other ‘Gram positive’ bacteria are very common. A type of mite known as Demodex folliculorum, live inside the oil glands at the very base of eyelashes in the very eyelid edge. They tend to come out at night and use the eyelid edge as their personal playground. Their life cycle leads to a lot of inflammation, which can show up as thickening of the eyelids, eyelash loss, redness and dry eye.”

Q:WHAT IS A MITE DOING IN MY EYELASHES?

A: “Mites like the eyelid edges because there is moisture, a warm environment, food from the natural oils that are secreted and protection from regular cleaning. Most people do not spend enough time cleaning the eyelid edges so these little buggers (pun intended!) are living in a privileged neighborhood.”

Q:HOW MANY PATIENTS DO YOU ENCOUNTER WITH THIS ISSUE?

A: “I see this quite often. In fact, Demodex infestation is present in 84 percent of the population at age 60.”

Q:WHAT IS THE CAUSE?

A: “Demodex grows better in areas that are more difficult to routinely clean, such as the eye socket or orbit that has a lot of valleys. Most of us don’t regularly scrub that part of our body as well as we should.”

Q:HOW DO I TREAT THIS CONDITION?

A: “There are dedicated eyelid cleansers and scrubs.Our favorite is Avenova that can be sprayed on and left to dry. It is dilute hypochlorous acid. While it smells like bleach, it is very gentle and kills almost anything bad. There are also foam cleansers that work well.”

Q:CAN I PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING?

A: “It’s important that we spend time in the shower every day cleaning around our eyelids and eyelashes so that there is not a build up of debris. A gentle soap and sometimes baby shampoo on a washcloth can be used. You can also purchase cleaning products for your lids at Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic. Your eyes will feel much better without these mites and bacteria.”

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