Dr. Peter Fries ~
Not all eyelashes grow correctly, and unusual eyelash growth can often be painful and irritating. Aberrant growth of eyelashes is defined as an abnormal direction in the growth of lashes. This eyelash growth usually extends toward the eyeball, causing irritation and redness, mucous production, and the feeling that something is constantly in the eye. In addition, lashes either rub on the eye because of the lash growth pattern stretching toward the eye or when lashes and skin touch the eye because the entire eyelid rolls inward. Recognizing which of these two issues causes the problem is essential in recommending a temporary or permanent solution.
An eye examination can readily reveal the circumstances that cause eye irritation. Lashes can fall out or may be plucked, which can often make identifying single lash abnormalities difficult. If the lash abnormality is on the lower eyelid, looking down will make the irritation worse. If the offending lashes are on the upper eyelid, blinking or looking up will make the lash irritation more obvious. Pulling an eyelid away from the eye may alleviate the irritation and tell you where the problem is.
A variety of conditions cause lashes to grow in an abnormal direction. Scaring from frequent infections, inflammations involving eyelid margins or specialized eyelid glands, and trauma can pull lashes towards the eye. Conditions such as rosacea, seborrhea, and blepharitis are notorious culprits of abnormal eyelash growth. In addition, some individuals are born with misoriented eyelashes, lid abnormalities or growths that cause lashes to project into the eye. Rare conditions such as pemphigoid, Stevens-Johnson syndrome and local and allergic drug reactions can also cause scarring and lash rotation.
Sometimes lashes rub on the eye when the lid starts to turn in even though the lashes stay in their usual position. This condition is termed entropion. Maturity allows laxity in the eyelid, along with loose lower eyelid muscles, and this can cause the lid to turn in when looking down or blinking. Pulling the lower eyelid away from the eye stops the irritation. Scarring on the inside of the eyelid lining, chemical burns, repeated infections, severe viral reactions, and other inflammatory conditions can also cause entropion.
Treatments depend on the cause, and your eye doctor can identify these causes. Some conditions require special testing or even biopsy. Often merely plucking the lashes works, but they will usually grow back in 3-5 weeks. Surgical repositioning of the eyelid is successful with lid rotations, but conditions that cause repeat scarring need to be identified and treated first to avoid recurrence. Electrolysis can be an effective treatment when only a few superficial lashes are the problem. Some internal scarring problems, like pemphigoid, require medications to control or reverse the condition before permanent treatment can be effective.
BIO: Dr. Peter Fries, with Eye Surgeons Associates, is certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and completed a fellowship in Ocular Oncology and Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He practices at our Bettendorf and Rock Island offices.
The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.