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What Is Demodex?

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Q: I have tried countless over the counter eyedrops, and seen several eye doctors, but still have itchy eyes. Sometimes my eyelashes look a little crusty, if that helps any. Do I just have to live with this?

A: In a word….no. I do not know what treatments have been tried, but several studies found that topical treatment can be very effective. “Topical” treatments mean we use medications applied externally to the eyelids, not with an oral medicine you would swallow.

Patients always cringe when I explain the cause of this very common, but very under-diagnosed, eye disorder. What you describe sounds like eyelashes look a little crusty. Demodex is a mite that commonly lives in the base of our eyelashes and the tiny oil glands along the lashes. The nature of these mites is that they create what I’ll call metabolic waste and it accumulates on the base of our eyelashes. This usually appears as a crusty or flaky debris on our lashes, near the eyelid skin. You have to look pretty closely to see this, but with our biomicroscope in the office, the diagnosis is very straightforward.

How Demodex Is Treated?

The good news is that the treatment we prescribe involves a medication you would apply to your eyelashes daily for a while to eradicate the mites, and then less often ( like weekly ) to prevent the recurrence that is likely. This Demodex infestation is virtually ubiquitous, meaning almost everyone has it to some degree, but only the worst cases cause the symptoms you describe. And the medications are usually not expensive, and easy to use. So while this will require ongoing management, like flossing your teeth, it typically restores comfortable “happy” eyes!

You may need to specifically mention Demodex to your Morgantown eye doctor next time, but virtually all eye doctors know about this and should know how to treat it. So good luck on your treatment, and I hope you will very soon be enjoying healthier eyelids!

To schedule your eye exam, call Morgantown Eye Associates in Morgantown at 304-381-5353 today!