Demodex Mites (Eyelash Bugs): Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments

Demodex Mites (Eyelash Bugs) - Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments

Do you ever experience dry, itchy, or crusty eyelashes? How about red or irritated eyes? If your symptoms seem to never go away, it might not be the usual dry eye or pink eye you have always thought. In cases like these, I highly recommend discussing Demodex mites with your eye doctor.

In this video, Dr Gabriela Olivares discusses what you need to know about demodex eyelash mites, including exactly how to treat them. 

If you don’t like the video or want more information, continue reading.

What is Demodex?

Demodex is a microscopic mite, not visible to the naked eye, that lives within the human body. This bacteria is naturally found on the face, cheeks, forehead, nose and even eyelids.

What you may not know is that these parasites live in the oil glands of human hair follicles and reside within them. They carry bacteria such as staph and strep as they travel along the lashes.

Furthermore, Demodex mites have been linked to dry eye disease, pink eye, recurrent styes, inflammation of the eyelids, and is considered the culprit of rosacea flare-ups.

RELATED: Hordeolum (Stye): Exactly How To Treat This Annoying Eyelid Condition

Demodex symptoms

Most patients with ocular Demodex don’t experience any symptoms. However, more severe cases can cause itching, burning, redness or inflammation along the eyelid. They can also lead to the feeling of a foreign body sensation and fluctuating blurry vision.

Symptoms in the early morning are more common due to the mites’ strong dislike for lighted conditions.

Also, Demodex mites are more active at night. In fact, they come out and lay their eggs along the eyelashes, then crawling back within the follicles once they are finished.

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Diagnosing Demodex

In order to diagnose a Demodex infestation, your eye doctor needs to remove a single eyelash in order to evaluate it underneath a microscope slide.

Observed under high magnification, a microscopic evaluation shows Demodex mites face down toward the hair follicle bed with their tails protruding outward. In many cases, you can actually see movement of their tails and tiny legs.

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Demodex treatment

The treatment of Demodex is very specific and unique.

Antibiotics do not help in these cases, as Demodex mites are resistant to them. They also cannot be washed away with just any soap and water.

Instead, what is needed is an essential oil called tea tree oil. Tea tree is a natural oil distilled from the leaf melaleuca alternifolia. This ingredient serves as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal fighting agent that eradicates these mites.

Mild cases can be treated at home with store-bought tea tree oil infused eyelid wipes. For more moderate to severe cases, in office therapy offers a higher concentration of the active ingredient used to kill Demodex and exfoliate the surrounding area.

If left untreated, these mites can cause prolonged inflammation and even loss of eyelashes.

RELATED: Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD): Here’s What You Need To Know

My 3 tips for managing Demodex

Now that you know exactly what Demodex is, you’re probably pretty grossed out by this condition. Fortunately for you, here are 3 useful tips I provide my patients experiencing Demodex infestation:

  1. Use tea tree oil shampoo for your hair and eyelashes daily. Tea tree oil face wash is also great for acne and rosacea associated with Demodex.
  2. If you wear eye makeup, consider throwing it out as it may be contaminated.
  3. If Demodex is suspected, wash your pillowcases and sheets.

RELATED: 3 Types of Eye Makeup That Can Damage Your Eyes!


Unsure if Demodex is affecting your eyes? Talk to your eye care professional today for an accurate diagnosis and treatment options.

What Demodex treatments have been successful for you? Share your feedback in the comments below!

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