Trichiasis: When Eyelashes Grow Toward the Eye

Your eyelashes do more than draw attention to your beautiful peepers. They help keep gunk out of your eyes.

But sometimes, they grow in the wrong direction. This is a common condition called trichiasis. That’s when your eyelashes turn inward. They can rub against your eyeball and cause problems. Luckily, your doctor can help.

What Causes It?

You can get trichiasis after an eye infection, or because you’ve hurt your eye or eyelid. Just getting older can also cause it, because your skin becomes less elastic as you age.

It’s more common in adults, but children can get it, too. Some are born with it. Others get it from rubbing their eyes too much.

Symptoms

You may feel like you have something in your eye. It might be red, sensitive to light, hurt, or tear up easily. You may have blurred vision. Or, you might have no symptoms.

Eyelashes that brush up against your cornea -- the clear, front part of your eye -- for a long time could cause eye irritation or a more serious condition on the surface of your eye. That can lead to infection and scarring. It could even affect your eyesight.

Treatment

There are many ways to treat trichiasis.

Your doctor may use little forceps to pluck out the pesky lashes. This is the most common way to treat it. He’ll numb your eyeball with drops and pull the lash out of its follicle. It usually comes out easily and doesn’t hurt.

You may need artificial teardrops for a couple of days. Your lashes will grow back in 3 to 5 months, but there’s still a chance they’ll come in the wrong way.

Children often outgrow trichiasis. If your child has a scratch on her eye, her doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops. He may also suggest an artificial tear ointment to protect it.

To clear up wrong-way eyelashes for good, your doctor may suggest surgery. Options include:

  • Ablation. This normally takes place in an office or clinic. Your doctor numbs your eye. He then uses lasers to remove lashes and hair follicles.
  • Electrolysis. Your doctor removes the lashes with electricity.
  • Cryosurgery. The doctor removes the lashes and follicles by freezing them.

Talk to your eye doctor about the best treatment for you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD on November 16, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Kidshealth.org: “All About Eyes.”

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus: “Trichiasis.”

Eyesmart.org: “What is a Corneal Ulcer?” “What is Trichiasis?”

Merck Manual: “Trichiasis.”

Doctors of Optometry Canada: “Trichiasis.”

University Hospital Southampton, NHS Foundation Trust: “Patient Information Factsheet: Ingrowing Eyelashes (trichiasis and distichiasis.)”

USC Eye Institute: “Trichiasis - Misdirected Eyelashes.”

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