If someone said you could double the amount of eyelashes you have, would you do it? Most people probably would. After all, who wouldn’t love thicker, more luscious lashes?
In fact, some people do have double lashes. It’s a condition called distichiasis — and although having double lashes sounds great, it’s far from normal — and it can come with some really unpleasant complications.
At Rostami OPC, Soheila Rostami, MD, and Joseph Davidson, MD, help patients understand the cause of their distichiasis and manage and prevent its eye-related issues. Here’s what you should know about this uncommon condition — and what to do if you think you may have it.
Distichiasis: The basics
Most of us have about 100 eyelashes on each of our upper eyelids and about 50 on our lower lids. The lash roots are firmly planted in thick bands of connective tissue that comprise the eyelid.
In distichiasis, these lashes grow in a normal arrangement, but additional lashes grow from the meibomian oil glands that line the lid margins.
These oil glands help lubricate your eyes, and the oils they produce form part of your natural tear film, making it easier for tears to coat your eye surface and preventing tears from evaporating too quickly.
Because the meibomian glands are located along the inner rim of the lids, lashes that grow from them tend to grow in toward the surface of the eye. This position increases the risk that the lashes will scratch or irritate the eye surface, leading to vision changes, infections, and sores or ulcers.
Why it happens
Some people are born with distichiasis (the congenital form of the condition), while other people develop distichiasis during their lifetimes. Both lash follicles and eyelid oil glands form from the same cells, which explains why some people can be born with the condition.
The acquired form of distichiasis typically happens as a result of:
- Eye trauma
- Acute inflammation
- Chronic lid irritation
- Chemical injury
- Underlying diseases, like Stevens-Johnson syndrome
Distichiasis is also more common among people with lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome (LDS), a genetic disorder involving your lymph system.
The meibomian glands are essential for eye health, so when treating distichiasis, it’s important not to damage the glands. Often, treatment begins with lubricating eye drops or special contact lenses to protect the eye surface.
When those options aren’t enough, your doctor may remove the individual lashes or suggest surgical options to alter the lid anatomy.
Even a mild scratch on the eye surface can lead to a devastating infection and permanent vision loss, so if you have distichiasis, it’s critically important to seek treatment for any signs of irritation or eye redness before serious eye damage occurs.
To learn more about distichiasis management and how we can protect your eye health, call 571-568-8716 or book an appointment online with Rostami OPC today.