Mites are microscopic bugs that live in human hair. About 98% of people have mites in their hair, as pointed out by the Society for the Advancement. Mites feed on hormones, fluids, and oils around the hair follicle. A hair follicle can host 25 mites. Mites can contribute to problems including hair loss, dermatosis, rash, rosacea, acne and other skin conditions. Elderly people and people with stress, cancer and compromised immune system such as HIV/aids are especially vulnerable to negative effects of mites.
Types of Mites
Demodex is a type of mites that can infest hair follicles. Demodex mites have two main species that can invade human hair follicles. One of the species consumes epithelial cells in the follicle. The other species consume glandular cells in the adjacent sebaceous gland. Demodetic mites are like scabies and chiggers mites that intrude human skin. They are too little to be visible to the naked eye. They move from one site to another very slowly. The main source of food for these mites is skin cells. Like other parasitic insects, mites do not feed on blood.
Demodex folliculorum is one of the species of demodex mites. Length of demodex folliculorum is about 0.3 to 0.4 mm. It causes hair follicle to thicken and distend. This can also cause keratin (skin protein) plugs to form.
Demodex folliculorum is also known as follicle mite. It lives in the hair follicles of humans and animals. It is usually found in the face and considered a face mite. This mite can spread by eggs contained in dust or direct contact. This mite is the most widely prevalent mite found in human throughout the world. This mite usually causes no significant negative effects in most people. In some cases this mite has been implicated in blackheads and acne due to the blockage of follicles. This mite has also been incriminated in chronic blephartis, which can result in loss of eyelashes, itchy eyes and eyelid scaling, as pointed out by the National Institutes of Health.
Demodex brevis is another species of Demodex mites that live in humans. It moves around in the dark and hides in the follicles in daylight. The female mites usually stays in one follicle where they mate and lay eggs. The male mites moves around from one follicle to another where they mate with female mites. In many ways, this mite is similar to the Demodex folliculorum. However, in stead of living in hair follicles this mite lives and reproduces in the sebaceous glands of humans. Sebaceous glands are located at the root of hair follicles. Demodex brevis is incriminated in some conditions including blepharitis, blackheads and acne. This mite is not as prevalent as Demodex Folliculorum.
Demodex canis is also known as red mange, mange or puppy mange. This mite primarily resides on dogs. However, they can also reside in humans. They live and breed in hair follicles. They usually do not cause negative effects in humans.
Sarcoptes scabiei is also known as scabies mite. It can cause hair loss. It lives in the skin. It can spread through close body contact. Canine variant of sarcoptes scabiei can cause a condition of hair loss in dogs, which is called sarcoptic mange and can infect human as well. However, in human, the disease usually causes only temporary itching.
Symptoms of Demodex Infestation
Hair follicles and attached glands, particularly of the eyelids get affected by demodex infestation. Eyelids usually manifest symptoms of demodex infestation. Symptoms manifest when the mite population grow significantly and when it results in sufficient irritation and damage to the area. Just a few mite in a healthy person may not lead to any symptom.
Eye and Eyelid Symptoms
Eye and eyelid symptoms for demodex infestation include dry eye, decreased vision, conjunctivitis, loss of eyelashes, itchy eyelids, scaling of skin on the eyelids, thickening of the eyelids etc.
Demodex infestation can possibly contribute to blepharitis, which is inflammation of the eyelids. It may also be responsible for infections of the cornea and conjunctiva.
There are people who have large number of mites as well as some skin conditions. This led to the belief that demodex can possibly be linked with some skin diseases that usually occur on the face. The skin diseases are mentioned below.
Pityriasis folliculorum causes the skin to become dry, rough and scaly. Rosacea is another skin condition, which is marked by plaques and patches of intensely red skin. Perioral dermatitis is a skin condition that involves itching, roughness and dryness of the skin around the mouth.
Demodex infestation or demodicosis does not necessitate treatment with prescription medication in most cases. Simple measures at home can help manage demodex. However, in some cases demodicosis should be treated by a medical practitioner as demodicosis may contribute to severe symptoms like diminished vision. Bacterial infection of the cornea and conjunctiva also need quick medical treatment.
Following are what home treatment involves. Washing eyelashes and hair with shampoo regularly. Removing dead skin cells when necessary. Cleansing the face with quality cleanser daily. Avoiding facial creams and oily make ups. Using tea tree face wash or soaps. Changing or washing bed sheet and pillow cases frequently.
Using a combination of macadamia nut oil and tea tree oil can help destroy eggs. Even though the treatment involves non-prescription herbal remedies, it should be taken care of by a doctor. Rubbing alcohol and mercury oxide ointment are also among other applications.
Following are some of the medications.
- Topical antibiotics such as metronidazole and erythromycin.
- Topical insecticides such as crotamiton and permethrin creams.
- Oral medication such as ivermectin for those who have compromised immune system.
- Mercury oxide 1% ointment.
- Tea tree 5% ointment.
Eradication and Recurrence
It is good to recover from demodicosis. It is hard to completely eradicate mites from human body. The good thing is that when mites are significantly reduced, it does not tend to cause a problem. Significantly reduced mite population can be maintained with proper hygiene. In absence of proper hygiene, recurrence can occur. When it recurs, it can still be easily treated.