• Dr Anne Malatt

Eyelash health: Loss of eyelashes

Our eyelashes have a greater function than just the cosmetic framing of our eyes. Our lashes protect the eyes from dirt and debris that can interfere with vision or cause infection or injury. Eyelashes grow, fall out and regrow in a natural cycle every six to ten weeks, just like the hair on our head.

It is normal to lose between one and five eyelashes every day. Sometimes we can lose more lashes, and this may be a symptom of an underlying problem with the eyes or a general health condition.

Common Causes of Eyelash Loss

There are many reasons we can lose more lashes than average. Eyelash loss on its own, without hair loss elsewhere on the body, may be due to local causes such as:

  • Irritation from cosmetics and procedures

Leaving eye makeup on too long, using and removing lash extensions and using eyelash curlers can all harm lashes and speed up lash loss. Eyelash loss can also stem from reactions to mascara and the glue used to apply eyelash extensions.

  • Blepharitis

Itchiness, soreness or burning of the eyes with redness or swelling of the lids may indicate blepharitis. Inflammation of the lids causes problems with the eyelash follicles and with lash growth and retention. Blepharitis can be due to underlying bacterial or fungal infections or mite infestation, which need to be treated or lash loss will continue to occur.

  • Trichotillomania

In this condition, a person habitually pulls out their own eyelashes due to emotional or psychological distress. As well as caring for the eyes and lashes, treatment of the underlying mental health condition is needed as hair pulling is an obsessive-compulsive disorder and there may be underlying symptoms of depression.

  • Skin cancer

Less commonly, localised lash loss can be a symptom of a skin cancer on the eyelid, as the cancer cells interfere with normal eyelash growth. The cancer itself may not be obvious, or it may mimic blepharitis or a stye or chalazion, and specialist diagnosis and treatment is required.

Eyelash Loss With Other Hair Loss

If hair is falling out from the eyelashes and also the eyebrows and/or the scalp, this may be a sign of a systemic health problem or condition. The most common cause of overall hair loss, including eyelashes, is:

  • Alopecia

This auto-immune disease causes the body to attack its own hair follicles, causing hair loss on the body, head or face. Acute alopecia – sudden, temporary hair loss – can be triggered by surgery, acute or chronic illness, anaemia, child birth or ageing.

Less-common causes for overall hair loss include:

· thyroid disorders, both hyper- and hypo-thyroidism;

· chronic inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma;

· chronic stress;

· nutritional deficiencies;

· hormone changes such as menopause; and

· chemotherapy and radiation therapy;

· many medications can have the side effect of hair, brow or lash loss.

Should You See A Doctor About Lash Loss?

If you have taken care of any cosmetic causes of lash loss, it is always worth consulting your eye doctor to see if there is an underlying and treatable cause of your eyelash loss.

How To Prevent Eyelash Loss

To keep your lashes healthy, wash your face and eyelids daily with a gentle cleanser and water, removing any and all makeup at the end of the day. Glands in the eyelids naturally lubricate the lashes, so special lotions and conditioners are not necessary. A healthy diet including proteins, vegetables and adequate essential vitamins and minerals will also help maintain the health of your eyelashes, along with the whole of your body.



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