Millions of People in the U.S. Have This Parasite—and May Not Realize It

The parasite often gets mistaken for dry or irritated eyes.

Parasites, pathogenic microbes on organic background with bokeh. 3D illustrationKateryna Kon/Shutterstock
Don’t panic, but eye mites could be crawling around your eyes right now. The parasites are tiny bugs that reproduce at night on your eyelids. Many people confuse eye mites with having dry or irritated eyes, but the treatment for eyelash mites is slightly different and the consequences, if untreated, can be much more severe.

The mites live on your floor, similar to ants. Dr. Norman Herskovich, an optometrist in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, says that eye mites are transferred to people through direct hand-to-eyelid contact or through direct contact with the face—unfortunately, the most common way that people are exposed to them is through their pets.

(These are secrets your eye doctor won’t tell you.)

But how? Basically, your cat or dog will lie on the floor and when you interact with them and possibly touch your face after, the mites are transferred to your eyes. Letting your pets sleep on your bed puts you even more at risk.

“Early symptoms can range from mild irritation to itching and slightly blurred vision,” says Dr. Herskovich. “More severe symptoms can become life-altering in that they can affect your vision and cause persistent ocular discomfort.”

People can also get eye mites from not removing their makeup at the end of the day or from traveling a lot and having their head come in contact with unknown surfaces, such as hotel pillows and airplane seats.

Dr. Herskovich says that it can be hard for you to diagnose yourself with eye mites without the proper equipment. If you feel like you’ve had irritated eyes for a prolonged period of time, you should visit an optometrist. Here are some other common eye problems that people tend to miss.

Luckily, if caught early, the treatment isn’t that difficult. Tea tree oil products specifically designed for eyelid use should be applied liberally two times per day. If the mites are more severe, an optometrist can perform other procedures to remove decomposed mites that live in the lashes and kill any eggs.

The most important thing to remember when avoiding eye mites is to be conscious of when you touch your eyes, and if you have to, always make sure that your hands are clean.

Here are some other ways to improve your eyesight.

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