Eyelashes are simply a protective line of hair on the eyelid which has developed to give some protection to the eye itself and are self-replacing in the same way as other body hair. They will eventually fall out and be replaced but they can be lost prematurely for other reasons. To differentiate from normal hair loss there is a medical name for falling lashes called madarosis or milphosis particularlyidentified because such a localised loss is unusual. In many cases it can be simply down to your eye make-up and removal regime or the formula of the remover that you use. Rubbing dry and itching eyes can dislodge some lashes as can the application and removal of false lashes. Heavy or theatrical make-up could cause fine lashes to fall out and additionally the action of an eyelash curler can damage them.
There are potential medical causes which include eyelid infections, which can result in the loss of eyelashes. A mite called Demodex folliculorum, will cause an infection, swelling and inflammation of the eyelash follicles. An overall loss of body hair may indicate, alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune condition and normally treated by Cortisone injections.
There are several other less obvious diseases that can cause madarosis.
It can also be caused by infections such chronic ulcerative blepharitis, viral infections such as herpes zoster (chicken pox/shingles), smallpox, measles, hepatitis, chlamydia trachomatis, tuberculosis and severe acute bacterial infections such as scarlet fever. Discoid lupus can cause a scarring madarosis and it has also been reported to occur in systemic lupus erythematosus and scleroderma.
As an extreme example madarosis has been reported as the most common ocular lesion (76%) in leprosy patients although such disease is rarely reported in the Western world.
Having excluded the more normal medical conditions, if the problem persists it may be worth consulting a specialist in eye lid and lash problems. Xalatan is a drug which is used to treat glaucoma but as a side effect can promote eyelash regrowth. However, there are, in my opinion, unacceptable side effects with this drug which is reported to cause a change in colour of the iris and may bring about blurring, irritated eyes, and skin rashes. In this instance I think investing in a quality set of false eyelashes would be the sensible solution.
Long-term use of Botox injections can also result in the loss of eye-lashes, as can eyelid tattooing and burns.
Drugs and toxins can cause eyelash loss; these include miotics, anticoagulants, anticholesterol drugs, antithyroid drugs, boric acid, bromocriptine, propranolol, valproic acid and chronic epinephrine therapy. Medication or types of poisoning that include arsenic, bismuth, thallium, gold, quinine, and vitamin A particularly, can also cause loss of eyelashes. Ciliary madarosis has also been reported in those who use or are addicted to cocaine. Syphilis can cause lateral brow loss.
There are many other conditions and diseases which can result in permanent or temporary madarosis. However, the actual loss of eyelashes should not be taken as an indication that you are or may be suffering from these conditions.
Tumours of the eyelids are outside of my experience but they are reported as: chalazion,basal cell carcinoma, sebaceous carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, lymphomas and sclerosing sweat duct carcinoma of the eyelid, all of whichcan also cause loss of eyelashes.
Conditions such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism are often identified to cause changes in body hair. Eyelash and eyebrow loss can be an early sign of hyperthyroidism where the hair may coarsen and become dull, brittle and thinner.
There are congenital causes, associated with other abnormalities and I quote: ichthyosiform erythroderma, hereditary ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, lamellar ichthyosis, cryptophthalmos, congenital atrichia and lid coloboma.
There are some more unusual conditions which are known to result in eyelash loss. I have no personal information on these but they are reported as:
Dermatological conditions - such as acanthosis nigricans and Vogt-Koyanagi syndrome, epidermolysis bullosa and rosacea and psoriasis.
Metabolic diseases - such as mitochondriopathy, adrenoleukodystrophy, malnutrition, Meige syndrome, sickle cell anaemia, HIV infection, post- proton beam irradiation for eye choroid tumours.
You may wish to look at the following articles concerning some of the conditions mentioned above:
The information contained in these articles will guide you how to treat the condition and thereby restore your eyelashes, if possible.
Hair loss and greying - how to stop it.
- Are you losing hair and is it greying - how to stop it.
hair loss can be alopecia or male pattern baldness. Both can be helped with essential oils and by increasing the amount of iodine in your diet.. Nothing will replace hair totally lost but natural remedies can stop further loss
© 2012 Peter Geekie
Peter Geekie (author) from Sittingbourne on September 08, 2012:
Thank you for your comment Peanutritious ,
There are very few conditions that will cause permenent eyelash loss. It is possible that your immune system is temporarily run down and your lashes will return as soon as it is boosted back up. Certainly my darling wife finds these things go in cycles.
Kind regards Peter
Tara Carbery from Cheshire, UK on September 07, 2012:
My eyelashes fell out through stress! They still are short but I use a brilliant mascara that makes them look loads better. I had eyelash extensions as i'm useless at putting false lashes on but again, they made my own lashes fall out! I wish they'd grow back!
Dianna Mendez on September 04, 2012:
So sorry for your wife, Peter. I hope that she can recover from this.
Peter Geekie (author) from Sittingbourne on September 04, 2012:
Thank you for your comments.
You are quite right - I was only superficially aware as it can be a side effect of some diseases. However, my wife started to suffer from it, which prompted me to look into the problem in more detail.
Only then did I realise it was more common than I thought.
It is a tricky problem to eradicate and I hope this article may be of some help.
Kind regards Peter
Dianna Mendez on September 04, 2012:
I have not heard of this before, but I do believe that there are people out there who are experiencing this condition. What a sad thing. My lashes are thin to begin with and I can't imagine how much this would affect people who have beautiful, long lashes. Interesting post.