Demodex Folliculorum: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and More

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  1. Overview
  2. Risk Factors
  3. Detection
  4. Signs
  5. Symptoms
  6. Treatments
  7. Conclusion


Demodex Folliculorum is an ectoparasite which belongs to the class Arachnida (sub class: Acari). It can be found on the surface of the human body and is mostly found on the face, cheeks, forehead,nose and eyelids. Demodex often hide in the deep ducts of the sebaceous glands since active sebum excretions provide a favorable habitat for breeding and
nourishment. Signs of Demodex infestation include cylindrical dandruff, disorders of the eyelashes, lid margin inflammation, meibomian gland dysfunction, blepharoconjunctivitis and blepharokeratitis. Colonization of Demodex increases with age and reaches 100% by the age of 70. Demodex Folliculorum causes ocular itching, foreign body sensation, crusting and redness of the lid margin, and blurry vision. Suspicions of a Demodex infestation should be aroused by the loss of lashes and/or cylindrical dandruff around the base of the eyelashes during a slit lamp evaluation. Examination of eyelashes under a microscope will confirm the presence of the Demodex mites.

Take a closer look to a demodex mite in the following video, I remind the mites vary in size from 0.1 mm to 0.4 mm long :

Associated risk factors

Demodex FolliculorumThere are a large number of risk factors that may be associated with an increased infestation with Demodex Folliculorum. Several reports have described the relationship between the rates of Demodex infestation and gender, but this topic remains controversial.


  • Stress and emotion
  • Climate: (warmth, humidity, sun and wind)
  • Fever
  • Flushing
  • Certain Drinks and food
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee and tea
  • Hot liquids, spicy food (e.g. chili, curry, pepper)
  • Pets (dogs often suffer from mites)


  • Perfume, after shave.
  • Peeling products
  • Soap & Sun oil.
  • Sinus and allergic conditions (e.g. the bacillus Oleronius)


Poor ocular hygiene in combination with increasing age may also be associated with an increase in Demodex count as a result of blocked orifices which prevent normal sebum secretion resulting in increased infestation.Treatment with topical steroids particularly long term use of these drugs may also result in an increase in the number of Demodex. There are some disorders of the eyelids, such as infections of the glands, dermatitis and psoriasis that need to be treated with corticosteroids, this aggravates Demodex but it sometimes is entirely impossible to treat two problems present at the same time.


The detection rate of Demodex can be affected by many factors including checkpoint, area, daytime and times of examination. The use of make-up seems to reduce the likelihood of Demodex carriage in young adults. Nevertheless, it is observed a higher prevalence of Demodex mites in (older) women who used makeup, probably due the blockage of the meibomian orifices by moisture eye makeup but also due to hormonal alterations allowing the mites to reproduce at a higher rate. On the other hand Demodex density is related to age also older people uses more heavy make-up and creams, on regular basis, that make them more susceptible for Demodex Folliculorum.


Ocular manifestations:

  • Bilateral crusting and redness of the lid margins

    Lashes with dandruff
    Lashes with dandruff
  • Lashes with dandruff
  • Meibomian gland disease
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Blepharitis
  • Conjunctival inflammation
  • Corneal vascularisation
  • Superficial opacities
  • Nodular scaring

Facial skin manifestations:

  • Itchy eyebrows, scalp and face

    Sign of Demodex
  • Oilier skin than normal
  • Enlarged facial pores
  • Acne, cysts, and pustules
  • Rosacea or facial flushing
  • Hair loss (madarosis)
  • Swollen nose


The main symptoms of infestation are tickling and itching, crawling sensation on the face and in the scalp in the evening, burning, foreign body sensation, crusting and redness of the lid margin, blurry vision and failed response to dry eye treatments and blepharitis. Itching during the night and early morning on the lower nose, eyebrows and eyelashes and irritation is common with these mites because of their aversion to light. Demodex mites are active at night and come out onto the surface to mate and to lay their eggs on the lashes. They subsequently crawl back into the follicle in the morning, causing the patient to itch. What  makes the diagnosis of Demodex difficult is that some patients will have “a lot of Demodex” without symptoms . All of these conditions are typically bilateral and chronic or relapsing.


Demodex Folliculorum blepharitis treatment goals include: eradicating the adult mites and their offspring, prevention of further mating, avoiding re-infestation and alleviating the patient’s symptoms. Understanding the mite’s life cycle and habits helps design a logical treatment plan.

Several options are available for the treatment of Demodex Folliculorum. These include treatment with topical and systemic anti-inflammatory and antibacterial medications, mercurial ointment, sulphur ointment, camphorated oil, crotamiton, antibiotics, as well as anti mycotic drugs. Moreover, a good response has been observed after oral application of ivermectin along with topical application of permethrin cream. As a topical treatment, tea tree oil is the preferred medication in combination with lid hygiene as evidence shows that it reduces the numbers of Demodex, is safe and has minimal side effects. It is also the only treatment that an Optometrist would be able to provide within the remit of their practice.

Tea tree oil

Demodex Folliculorum is susceptible to tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural oil distilled from the leaf of Melaleuca alternifolia. At home, a twice daily lid scrub with 5 % tea tree oil is followed by a massage of the eyelids. This prevents mating and therefore prevents an re-infestation from occurring around the eyes.

CliradexThe best tea oil available product in the market is Cliradex Eyelid, Eyelash and Facial Cleansing Towelettes  a patented formulation with 4-Terpineol, the key ingredient of tea tree oil. Cliradex is scientifically shown to be safe and effective to control lid margin diseases. The killing mites effectiveness of Cliradex formulation has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed papers and studies. 

How to apply :

  1. First wash hands and face prior to opening
  2. Tear open packette at the perforated edge and unfold the towelette
  3. Close the eye tightly, without squinting and gently cleanse the eyelid and surrounding facial area with a lateral side to side motion
  4. Avoid formulation and towelette getting inside of the eye
  5. Flip the towelette over, and repeat for the other eye

Great Tips :

  1. Cut each towelette package in half and save for later use
  2. Be careful not to touch your eye with the wipes, as it will sting a bit

As an alternative, Blepharitis Wiki suggests the  We Love Eyes: Tea Tree Eyelid Foaming Cleanser – Vegan.  Use this multi-purpose tea tree eyelid foaming cleanser to soothe your demodex symptoms by washing away dirt, allergens and makeup residue. The tea tree oil in  eyelid foaming cleanser attacks bacteria and demodex Folliculorum mites to combat red, itchy, irritated eyelid symptoms. Plus, it’s safe to use with lash extensions.

Lid Warming + Massage

It is scientifically found a strong positive relation between ocular surface comfort and Demodex counts despite age. They concluded that good eyelid hygiene decreases the prevalence of Demodex Folliculorum and helps to improve ocular discomfort in all ages. Eye lid cleaning procedures and a warm compress and vertical eyelid massage works to both melt the thick wax in the meibum and loosen any debris on the eyelid margin and eyelashes. There are several devices which can be used to warm the eye lids. The success of this treatment appears to be multi-factorial and includes thickening and stabilization of the meibomian lipid layer as well as the reducing bacterial colonization, which has been proven to be effective in diminishing the symptoms.

The easiest way to warm your eyelids is via Eye Mask like Oasis REST & RELIEF Eye Mask  which adjunct Hot  Therapy for the relief of Demodex Folliculorum Symptoms. Temperature retaining beads that conform to the body in a soft knit cloth mask for maximum comfort. Put it on a clean plate and then in the microwave for 15 seconds. The mask will be warm for 10 minutes, no water is needed. It is  much simpler and easier than common hot compresses.

The management involves these steps:

  1. Clean your hands ( eye mask should also be clean)
  2. Apply warm eye mask for 10 minutes
  3. Gently massage your closed eyes by rolling your little finger in a circular motion
  4. Take a cotton wool bud and, with your eyes shut, gently roll it downwards on the upper eyelid towards the lashes and edges of the eyelids – this helps to push the melted oil out of the glands, but you won’t be able to see the tiny droplets
  5. Repeat the process along the whole width of the upper and lower eyelids


Even though there is no special diet to prevent Demodex, there are factors that may change the environment to encourage mites’ proliferation for example sunlight exposure and abrupt changes in temperature.Supplementing omega-3 fatty acids encourages the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and modifies the composition of meibomian lipids. The results demonstrated an improvement in their overall Ocular Surface Disease Index  score, tear break-up time, and meibum score. They concluded that when the intake of unprocessed oils, cold-water fish and natural oils is low, omega-3 fatty acids can help to improve the tear film.

Health Eye-Lid Guidelines

There are some simple rules that help improving treatments efficiency :

  1. Do not touch your face with anything dirty
  2. Wash pillow covers and sheets more often and in higher temperature ( if possible discard them and buy new ones )
  3. Avoid makeup during treatment and discard old one
  4. Discard your spouse
  5. Demodex F. can travel easily from one person to other. Make sure everyone in your household as checked as well. This includes pets as well .


Demodex Folliculorum infestation can be responsible for ocular surface inflammation, meibomian gland dysfunction, rosacea  and blepharitis. In addition, Treatment of Demodex in general takes a few  months. Apart from other treatment options described in this dissertation; lid scrub with tea tree oil is an effective treatment to eradicate ocular Demodex. It improves visual acuity and leads to a more stable tear film layer. Moreover, if it is combined with lid warming,lid massage and Omega-3 diet the results are fast and efficient.



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