Eyelashes are not just a cosmetic feature on your face. They play an important role in the health of your eye. The improper application and use of cosmetics can cause eyelash problems — as a matter of fact, it’s one of the most common means of infection. But other, serious conditions also can lead to infected eyelashes.
It’s not really the lash itself that carries infection; it’s the surrounding tissue that becomes inflamed. When other substances interfere with proper eyelash function, your eyes and vision can suffer. It’s vital to care for your eyelashes to maintain your looks and your ability to look.
The Eyelashes’ Job
Eyelashes often are considered one of the features on the face that contributes to style and fashionable beauty. They also perform a valuable function by protecting your eyes from falling dust and debris. Like butterfly wings, the soft, fine hairs that comprise your eyelashes are very sensitive to movement, which makes them great harbingers of danger.
They act like the whiskers on your cat or dog to let you know when something is getting too close to your eyes for comfort. An automatic response system then kicks in and you naturally blink to protect your eyes form the impending potential danger.
Common Sources of Irritation
Since eyelashes play such an important role in your eyes’ health, as well as add to the beauty expressed in your face, it’s vital that you take good care of them. Some of the conditions that harm eyelashes include:
- Blepharitis: This condition can lead to your eyelashes falling out. It’s caused by an irritation on your eyelids. Your eyelids may become itchy and red, causing your skin to dry out and flake.
- Madarosis: This medical term refers to a condition expressed when your eyelashes fall out.
- Trichiasis: This is the condition when the ends of your eyelashes turn and grow into your skin.
- Distichiasis: This medical condition occurs when your eyelashes grow abnormally on just one place on your eyelid.
- Parasites: Certain crabs, called lice, can bore into your lids and infect your eyelashes.
- Stye: The glands in your eyelids become red and swollen from this infection, which is a purulent inflammation of infected eyelash follicles.
- Demodex: This is another microscopic mite that breeds in your eyelashes and is really quite common.
- Trichotillomania: This medical term refers to a psychological disorder that causes people to pull out body hair, including their eyelashes.
Symptoms of Concern
Any fashion-conscious woman closely watch the health and stamina of her eyelashes. They are, after all, near the focal point of the face (the eyes). But when unusual symptoms occur, it’s not something that can or should be just covered up with makeup.
Symptoms to watch for that could indicate you have an infection on or around your eyelashes and eyelids:
- Crustiness forming in the corner of your eyes and across your eyelashes
- Watering in your eyes not related to any outside environmental factor
- Swelling on your eyelids
- Itchiness in your eyes
- Filmy oil covering your eye
- Redness that accompanies the inflammation
- Burning feelings in and around your eyes
- Light sensitivity
The Specialist’s Role
While your family doctor may be capable of diagnosing and treating an infection around your eyelashes, an ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diseases of the eye. An eye doctor may be a more appropriate choice for your first visit to check out your eyelash symptoms.
Often, an experienced eye doctor can diagnose your condition with a simple visual inspection of your eye. An ophthalmologist has access to the proper diagnostic and treatment tools. Magnifying instruments, made especially for ophthalmological investigations, often are employed so your doctor can clearly tell if your eyelashes have been compromised by fungus, mites, bacteria or other infections. A swab of the substance on your eye, viewed under a microscope, may be enough to validate the diagnosis.
Once an infection is substantiated, you may be given a round of antibiotics to fight the intruding bacteria. Antibiotics to treat eyelash infections may be taken orally or applied directly to the area as an ointment or liquid drops.
Other treatments used either in conjunction with antibiotics or separately — if no infection is discovered — include:
- Warm compresses to reduce the inflammation
- Washing your eyes with a sterile solution
- Oral steroids
- Inflammation-reducing ointment
- Medicated eye drops
Complications Can Occur
Losing your eyelashes permanently is a very real threat if you don’t receive the appropriate treatment in time. This occurs when the hair follicles through which the lashes grow become scabbed and scarred. Scarring also can cause new eyelashes to grow in incorrectly or spottily. Too much scarring and they may never grow back.
In the short-term, you also may have trouble growing new eyelashes. Other short-term complications can include:
Long-term complications always must be considered when dealing with issues surrounding your eyes that could eventually affect your vision. Untreated, eyelash infections can lead to such long-term complications as:
- Vision loss and even blindness
- Chronic pink eye
- Corneal ulcers
- Eyelid pain
Take Early Preventive Steps
Sometimes, an eyelid infection is out of your hands and nothing you’ve done could prevent it. There are, however, steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that you’ll develop an eyelid infection:
- Washing your face regularly with a mild soap intended for sensitive skin is one of the best ways to avoid infections.
- Take off your makeup. You may have heard that removing your makeup before you go to bed is best for your appearance because left-over makeup in the morning is not only unsightly, but often leaves your eyes puffy and red. Always sleeping in eye makeup creates a recipe for infection.
- Don’t rub. When your eyes are itchy, do everything you can to avoid rubbing them and irritating them further.
- Wash again. Washing can never be over-emphasized. Always thoroughly wash your hands before touching your eyes or eyelids.
- Control your dandruff. The falling flakes are a prime irritant that can lead to further infections. Use a dandruff shampoo or ask your doctor for a prescription to control your scalp flakes.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult eye doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified eye doctor can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have any questions about infected eyelash treatment in NYC? Would like to schedule an appointment with NYC Ophthalmology specialist or Optometrist Dr. Saba Khodadadian of Manhattan Eye Specialists, please contact our office for consultation with NYC eye doctor.
Dr. Saba Khodadadian, Optometrist (NYC Eye Doctor)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 533-4821