We seldom have very many eyelash problems to deal with, but if we do, the problem is more than likely apt to be that of an ingrown eyelash. Like all things medical, an ingrown eyelash has its own special name, a name that may make little sense to the layman, but to a medical practitioner is quite descriptive. The medical term for this type of eyelash problem is trichiasis. The term is related to the term trachoma, which is an infectious disease of the eye, a disease that if untreated can lead to blindness.
An eyelash growing in the wrong direction won’t necessarily lead to blindness, but it can be a cause of discomfort, and if not treated, it could result in an infection in the eyelid, or in the eye itself. While the infection may not be caused by the same bacterium that causes trachoma, an infection in the eye that is caused by any type of a bacterium should be a cause for some concern.
A somewhat related malady, known as entropion, is usually related to advancing age. Here, the eyelid turns inward toward the eye. The eyelashes may then come into contact with the eye, leading to symptoms that are similar to those caused by an ingrown hair. In the case of entropion however, several eyelashes or hairs may be causing the trouble. In either case, the rubbing of one or more eyelash hairs against the corona will usually cause great discomfort, and can potentially be a source of infection.
Eyelash Thickness Is Not The Issue
An eyelash doesn’t have to be noticeably thick to cause a problem. We usually have more eyelashes than we may think we do. Not all eyelash hairs are necessarily identical, and their length and thicknesses may vary. Sometimes, the hairs can be so thin that it takes a magnifying glass to see them. One of these tiny and seemingly harmless hairs can cause just as much discomfort as any other eyelash hair when coming into contact with the eye.
Sometimes an eyelash, for whatever reason, just grows in a direction other than it is supposed to. In most cases however, an injury to an eyelid, or the scarring of an eyelid will cause a normally growing eyelash to head off in the wrong direction.
While some people will pluck their own eyebrows for cosmetic reasons, one should never attempt to do the same with the eyelashes. It would take a person who is nearly impervious to pain to do so in any event, since the eyelids are quite sensitive. Any attempt to remove an eyelash at home however, even if successful, would put one at a high risk of developing an eye infection or causing scarring, which could lead to further encounters with ingrown lashes.
Have A Professional Perform The Task
If an errant eyelash needs to be removed, it should only be done by a specialist. The family doctor would usually be unwilling to take on the task, and the procedure usually is performed by an ophthalmologist. In some cases it may be necessary to visit an oculoplastic surgeon. An oculoplastic surgeon is a person who specializes in performing surgical procedures on the very delicate tissues surrounding the eye.
The initial symptom an ingrown eyelash causes is normally an itching sensation, tempting one to rub the eyes. The eyes also may eventually become watery, vision may be somewhat obscured, and when blinking, one may have the sensation that there is a speck of sand or grit in the eye. As noted previously, one should never attempt to remove an ingrown hair. That should be left up to a professional. However, there are a few things that can be done at home to get some relief from the symptoms, while making preparations to visit a doctor or an ophthalmologist. As indicated before, a family doctor may be unwilling to remove an eyelash, but the doctor may be in a position to temporarily move the eyelash away from the surface of the eyelid, and possibly even trim the eyelash back. The eyelash will still need to be removed however, as it will simply grow back to the point where it once again will cause a problem.
What one can do at home is to periodically apply a warm compress to the eye. A damp towel will do. This could be done on an hourly basis, and it should relieve any pain or itching. Warm water should be used instead of hot water, and the pressure used in holding the compress to the eye should be gentle.
Forceps, Electrolysis, And Liquid Nitrogen
An ophthalmologist will probably remove the ingrown eyelash with forceps, which may or may not be the end of the situation, as the eyelash may grow back normally, or it may grow back only to resume its old habits. In the latter instance, the hair follicle will have to be surgically removed. Electrolysis is the usual method employed, although it is only effective about 70% of the time. Topical cryotherapy yields better results, as the follicle is frozen with liquid nitrogen, which destroys it.