This weekend I spoke at the 100% Optical event, one of the UK’s largest trade event for eye care professionals. The topic was not one to be relayed over the dining table; it definitely had the ‘eugh’ factor. Demodex are a form of eyelash mite, who get their name from the Greek ‘demo’ meaning fat and ‘dex’, a woodworm. These little mites take up home in eyelash follicles and are stubborn and hard to get rid of. They don’t cause serious harm, in fact many won’t even know they have them, however for some it can be very uncomfortable.
A demodex infestation in the eyelashes can lead to blepharitis, a condition where the eyelids, can become inflamed, red and itchy. Or on the face they are linked with rosacea. It is a very common condition, although one that many probably choose not to share.
Unfortunately it is one of these conditions that is very hard to eradicate so during the workshop I discussed ways to manage it. Firstly I recommend removing as much of the crusty area around the eyelashes as possible, followed by a deep clean of the affected area. The next phase includes the use of tea tree oil. But before you nip out to the shops to buy some, please bear in mind that the concentration required to kill the mites could seriously harm the eye so this is best done by an optometrist who knows what they are doing. Then patients will be given a lid hygiene programme that may include various specialised wipes and products. The condition should then be continually monitored to ensure it does not become more severe and to gauge whether further deep cleaning is required.