Trichiasis is a common eyelid abnormality in which the eyelashes are misdirected and grow inwards towards the eye.
Trichiasis can cause the inward-turning eyelashes to rub against the cornea (the clear, dome-like window covering the coloured iris and the pupil), the conjunctiva (the thin, clear membrane covering the sclera, which is the white part of the eye) and the inner surface of the eyelids, irritating the eye.
Common symptoms of trichiasis include foreign body sensation, eye redness, blurry vision, watery eyes and sensitivity to bright light. Additionally, eyelashes that have been rubbing against the cornea for a long time can cause a corneal abrasion or even a corneal ulcer due to the constant irritation to the cornea.
Trichiasis can be caused by an eye infection, inflammation (swelling) or the eyelid, autoimmune conditions and trauma. This condition can also be caused by rubbing of the eyes which can mechanically turn the lashes. Although anyone can develop trichiasis, it is more common in adults.
Certain conditions that increase your risk of developing trichiasis include:
To clear up wrong-way eyelashes for good, your ophthalmologist may suggest electrolysis — a safe and effective process that uses electricity to permanently remove the hair. To prevent regrowth of the lashes and treat the root cause of irritation, each hair follicle can be destroyed with a high-frequency electric current.
The procedure is performed under local anaesthesia, where a fine probe is inserted approximately 2mm into the follicle adjacent to the lash, and it coagulates the root of the hair shaft. The lash can then be removed harmlessly and permanently with forceps.
Following electrolysis, an antibiotic drop or ointment is prescribed to aid the healing process. Most often this is a permanent solution but sometimes needs repeating.
Auckland Eye - New Zealand Centre of Excellence for Eye Care