Tricky lashes. . .trichiasis

When eyelashes function normally, they help to protect our eyes from the environment. Eyelashes help to deflect debris from entering our eyes. Lashes also help us sense if something is very close to our eyes-causing us to blink. Blinking refreshes our eyes with tears. Most days, we don’t even think about our eyelashes.

For some patients, instead of protecting the eyes, eyelashes can cause irritation. Trichiasis occurs when the eyelashes curl towards the eye (specifically the cornea and conjunctiva). When this happens, patients often have a gritty sensation or experience a feeling like something is stuck in their eye.  Lashes that curl inwards can scratch and abrade the cornea. Increased tearing and redness also commonly occurs.  Imagine having a strand of hair constantly in your eye. . .not too comfortable!

For isolated cases, an ophthalmologist or optometrist can remove the lashes with forceps, under illumination and magnification. Because these lashes are very close to the surface of the eye, patients are discouraged from attempting to remove lashes at home, in case they accidently scratch their eye, which would lead to even more pain/discomfort.  If trichiasis persists chronically, surgical intervention may be indicated.

If you have persistant grittiness and irritation that doesn’t improve after using artificial tears, eyelashes may be to blame!

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