Eye mites, also known as demodex mites, are microscopic parasites that are spread by both humans and animals, including household pets. They spend most of their lives deep within hair follicles, primarily eyelashes, and feed on the natural oils produced by the body.
During the day they are mostly dormant, and only come out at night, when they crawl, eat, and reproduce. Few people take notice, as this happens while they are asleep.
“They try to avoid light, so what ends up happening, as awkward as this sounds, when we go to bed at night they come out and they mate, and they will actually reproduce. They have a two- to three-week cycle and will eventually die, but their offspring will continue the process.” said Norman Herskovich, an optometrist at Elite Family Eye Care, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
By themselves, the mites don’t cause much of a problem for most people. Some people, however, can have large numbers of them living in and on their bodies, which can then lead to skin and eye irritation, or inflammation of the eye area.
Once diagnosed with demodex mites, treatment usually involves regular cleaning of the eye area with medicated wipes, followed by a thorough eyelid cleaning in an eye doctor’s office. The cleaning is painless, and takes less than half an hour to complete.
According to Dr. Herskovich, “The actual procedure allows me to exfoliate debris that would otherwise obstruct the meibomian glands, which produce a component of our tears known as the lipid layer, or oily layer. The oily layer is critical to keeping our tears from prematurely evaporating.
The mites are very common, and can be found on many household surfaces, especially floors. It’s quite easy for them to be picked up, and unintentionally transferred to a persons face, where they can then take hold. People with pets have much higher infection rates than non pet owners.”
To prevent getting demodex mites, it’s recommended that you wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, and never touch your eyes or face with dirty hands, also, don’t sleep with your pets too close to your face.