What is an ingrown eyelash? Your eyelashes not only make your eyes look beautiful, but also act as a protective barrier preventing the entry of dust and foreign bodies inside your eyes. Eyelashes also prevent your eyes from drying out. Any damage or abnormality in the eyelashes therefore causes a lot of irritation and pain. Ingrown eyelash, medically called trichiasis, is one such painful condition in which the eyelashes curl and grow backwards into the skin surrounding the eye instead of growing out away from the eye. Ingrown eyelash may occur on both upper and lower eyelids and may at times obstruct your vision. People with hooded eyes are more prone to ingrown eyelashes. This condition is commonly observed in adults; however, toddlers, children and elderly people may also suffer from ingrown eyelashes.
Symptoms of Ingrown Eyelash
If you have ingrown eyelashes, you may often feel pain and irritation in the eyes because your eyelashes constantly rub against your eyes. Your eyes may turn red or become swollen due to the irritation. You may also experience sensitivity to bright light. In some cases, the ingrown eyelash may pierce the skin surrounding the eyelid and may lead to formation of pus.
What are the Causes of Ingrown Eyelash?
Some people are born with ingrown eyelash, whereas, some people may develop it at a later stage in their life. People who are born with ingrown eyelash may be suffering from a disorder called Epiblepharon. At later stages of life, ingrown eyelashes may occur due to conditions such as herpes zoster or chronic blepharitis. Trauma or burns to the eye and other medical conditions such as Steven-Johnson syndrome or trachoma may also cause formation of ingrown eyelash. The most common causes of ingrown eyelashes are as follows:
Any trauma or injury to the eyes may lead to formation of ingrown eyelashes. Injury to the eyes may occur due to hitting or piercing the eye with sharp objects or even due to burns. Injury to the eyelids may be caused due to an eye surgery as well. This occurs especially if the injury is left untreated.
Stye is a pimple- like red bump occurring on the eyelid or the base of the eyelash. Stye occurs due to an injury to the hair follicle or the oil glands of the eyelid or due to bacterial infections. Sometimes, the growth of the eyelashes get disturbed due to the presence of these bumps and infections and this may lead to the formation of ingrown eyelashes. Stye causes a lot of discomfort, but, is not a serious condition in most of the cases.
Trachoma is one of the most common reasons for formation of ingrown eyelashes. Trachoma is considered to be the major reason for blindness. Trachoma spreads in countries with poor hygiene and can be treated with oral antibiotics.
Autoimmune disorders are considered to be one of the major causes of ingrown eyelash. People suffering from autoimmune disorders like lupus commonly suffer from ingrown eyelashes. If a person is suffering from ingrown eyelash due to an autoimmune disorder, the person may experience blurred or double vision as a symptom along with pain, irritation and redness in the eye.
Steven-Johnsons syndrome is another autoimmune disorder that causes the skin to dry and shed off. This leads to appearance of rashes or blisters and may occur on the skin surrounding the eyelids which may lead to formation of ingrown eyelashes.
Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is a rare autoimmune disease leading to inflammation in the eyes and causes formation of bumps and ingrown eyelashes.
Psoriasis is a skin condition and it may occur in the regions surrounding the eyes. When a person is suffering from psoriasis around the eye, thick white patches of skin grows around the eyelid. This may impede the process of normal growth of eyelashes and may eventually lead to formation of ingrown eyelashes. Ingrown eyelash occurring due to psoriasis also causes inflammation in the eyes and in the area surrounding the eyelids.
Epiblepharon is a congenital disorder that may lead to formation of ingrown eyelashes. Epiblepharon is a condition in which the lashes of the eye are pushed inwards by muscles surrounding the eyes. It is commonly observed in people of Asian descent. This condition can be easily corrected by surgery.
Entropion is a condition which affects the eyelids and is commonly observed in the elderly people. In entropion, the margins of the eyelids flip inwards towards the eyes. Inward flipping of the eyelids cause the eyelashes also to turn inwards and rub against the eyes.
Blepharitis is a very common cause of ingrown eyelash. Blepharitis is a condition that affects the eyelash bearing area and causes chronic inflammation. It occurs due to blockage of oil glands (meibomian glands) in the eyelids, bacterial infections (streptococcal infections) or allergens. People suffering from blepharitis also suffer from redness, burning sensation, swelling and continuous secretion of tears from the eyes. It may also lead to sensitivity on exposure to light as well as blurry vision. Blepharitis takes approximately 4 weeks to get resolved completely.
Treatment for Ingrown Eyelash
If you are suffering from ingrown eyelash, you should visit your ophthalmologist immediately. Ingrown eyelashes do not go away on their own. Ignoring ingrown eyelash for a long period of time may cause abrasion in the cornea or formation of corneal ulcers.
Simple ingrown eyelashes can be plucked or removed surgically. Severe cases of ingrown eyelashes may require removal of the troublesome eyelashes using laser treatment, a method known as ablation. Alternatively, cryosurgery which involves removal of ingrown lashes by freezing or electrolysis i.e. permanent removal of ingrown eyelash using electricity may also be used as a mode of treatment.
Surgical removal is the most preferred way for removal of ingrown eyelashes. Surgery is done under anaesthesia to correct the direction of growth of lashes. Surgical removal provides a permanent solution for removal of ingrown eyelashes.
Electrolysis makes use of high frequency electric current for removal of ingrown eyelashes. This process is useful only if a few lashes have to be removed. However, this procedure proves to be ineffective if a lot of lashes have to be removed. Electrolysis is not a permanent solution for removal of ingrown lashes. It is a lengthy process and may also lead to scar formation. Antibiotics may be prescribed post electrolysis treatment to prevent infections that may occur as a result of the treatment. Some swelling may also be observed after electrolysis and cold or hot compress may be used to alleviate the swelling. Therefore electrolysis remains the last resort to removal of ingrown eyelashes.
Cryosurgery utilizes liquid nitrogen to freeze the affected eyelash and destroy the hair follicle. Cryosurgery is useful only if a few eyelashes are to be removed and is not a permanent solution to ingrown eyelashes.
Home Remedies for Ingrown Eyelashes
Removal of the vexing eyelash is the only definitive remedy for ingrown eyelashes. You may try these home remedies to reduce the pain, discomfort and inflammation caused due to ingrown eyelashes. However, it may not be helpful in getting rid of the ingrown eyelash. It is advisable to visit a doctor and not self-treat yourself. Albeit, you may try these home remedies for symptomatic relief.
Warm compress may prove to be useful in case of ingrown eyelashes, specifically to treat the inflammation, by improving the blood circulation to the affected area. Though warm compress may not treat the ingrown eyelashes per se, it may help in relieving the symptoms.
Tea bag compress
Tea contains tannins, which are natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory medicines. Tea bag compress may be used before or after removal of ingrown eyelashes to provide symptomatic relief of inflammation and pain. It may also help in preventing infections caused due to ingrown eyelashes. You may soak a tea bag in warm water for 5 minutes and then keep it in the fridge for about 10 minutes before applying it on the affected eye.
Removal of ingrown eyelash using tweezer
The appropriate method of treatment for ingrown eyelash is by carefully removing it. If you have a steady hand, you may remove the ingrown lash using a tweezer. Make sure that the tweezer you are using is clean and sterile in order to prevent any further infections. If you experience pain due to use of tweezers, it is advisable to visit an ophthalmologist to have the ingrown eyelash removed.
Application of natural antibacterial agents
You may apply natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agents like coconut oil, aloe vera juice, turmeric paste or honey in order to reduce the pain, discomfort and inflammation. Take the natural antibacterial agent on a clean cotton swab and apply it on the ingrown eyelash. Let it stay on the eyelash for 15- 20 minutes and then wash off carefully using warm water. You may also place chilled cucumber slices on your eyes to relieve the irritation and pain due to ingrown eyelashes.