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Eyelash Lice

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Updated May 15, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Did you know that your eyelashes are vulnerable to lice infestation? Head lice are tiny insects that live on the scalp, but occasionally are found living on the eyebrows and eyelashes. Because head lice spread easily from person to person, cases are seen often in schools, affecting all socio-economic groups. Do you know how to spot eyelash lice?

What Is Eyelash Lice?

While lice are not dangerous, they happen to be extremely annoying and contagious. Lice are wingless insects that feed off of the blood and skin of people. An adult louse may attach itself to the skin around the eyelashes. then lay eggs, or nits. The nits are attached to the shaft of the hair itself and hatch 6 to 10 days later. Within 15 days, the nits grow into adults and lay more eggs.

Types of Lice

Lice varieties are categorized based on their shape and area of infestation.
  • Pediculosis capitis: This lice variety is usually found on the head. It has an elongated body type and is the most common organism found in childhood lice infestations.
  • Pediculosis corporis: Similar to pediculos capitis, this type of lice usually infects the hair on your body, particularly the abdomen.
  • Pediculosis pubis: This lice has a crab-shaped body and is found in the pubic regions and at the base of pubic hair. The infestation of lice on the eyelashes and eyelids is a manifestation of pubic louse infestation.

Symptoms of Eyelash Lice

The most obvious symptom of a lice infestation is itching. People with eyelash lice may experience the following symptoms:
  • Sudden extreme itchiness of the eyelid margin
  • Feeling ill or tired
  • Low-grade fever
  • Small irritated red spots from lice bites
  • Tearing
  • Eye redness
  • Conjunctivitis

Diagnosis of Eyelash Lice

Your doctor will be able to diagnose eyelash lice by using a slit lamp biomicroscope to examine your eyes. Under high power magnification, the crab-like lice can be seen at the base of the eyelashes. Interestingly, their bodies appear clear -- so at first glance the doctor may only see blood flowing through their bodies.

Treatment of Eyelash Lice

Treatment of eyelash lice is focused on physically removing the lice with fine forceps. The nits must also be removed, if possible. An antibiotic is sometimes prescribed as a method of suffocating the lice. Commercially prepared chemicals and shampoos are not generally recommended to treat eyelash lice, for fear of causing irritation or damage to the eye.

What You Should Know About Eyelash Lice

Although assumptions should never be made, it is important to remember that the infestation of lice on the eyelashes and eyelids is a manifestation of pubic louse infestation. Recurrent eyelash lice infestation in children can be an indication of child abuse.

Source:

Catania, Louis J. Primary Care of the Anterior Segment, 2nd Ed. Copyright 1995 by Appleton & Lange.

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