Demodex mites and blepharitis

Posted by: Damon, Dierker, OD, FAAO on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 12:00:00 am

Blepharitis is a common inflammatory condition of the eyelids. It is a chronic disease that may develop at any age. Blepharitis occurs at the base of the eyelashes and traditionally has been thought to be caused by a bacterial infection. However, new research has shown that in many people blepharitis is actually caused by infestation of a tiny mite called Demodex folliculorum.

Demodex mites are the most common parasite found in the human skin. As people age, they are more likely to have acquired the mite. In fact, approximately 85% of people over age 60 have some of these mites present on their skin. The mites are mostly seen in the eyelashes and around the eyelids. Most people with evidence of a few mites have no problems. However, if more than a few mites are present, many people will develop blepharitis and can have any of the following symptoms:

  • Swollen, red eyelids
  • Eyelid crusting, often worse in the morning
  • Burning or stinging sensation
  • Frequent styes
  • Chronic eye redness
  • Watery, irritated, or dry eyes
  • Scales or flakes on lids/lashes
  • Fluctuating vision

While common, blepharitis due to Demodex mites is hard to diagnose. In fact, until recently, most eye care practictioners would not even check to see if this is present in patients with symptoms of blepharitis. New treatments are now available and symptoms can be improved in a matter of weeks. Eye Surgeons of Indiana has treated many patients with blepharitis caused by Demodex.

If you have symptoms of blepharitis and would like to be evaluated, please Contact Us to schedule an evaluation.