Follicle mites in humans

Follicle mite

Fig. 76. A follicle mite (Smart)

Two species of follicle mites are found in humans, namely Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. The mites are not common in young people, however, as people get older, they become increasingly common, and all people of 60-70 years are infested with detectable levels of follicle mites. They are most commonly found on the nose, where an average of 50% of the follicles host a mite. Eyelash follicles are not as commonly occupied by the follicle mites – only a 10% of the follicles are infected. The other facial skin as well as the body skin can also be infected by the follicle mites, however, not in such large numbers as the nose. Follicle mites probably spread from one person to another though facial contact or bedding where the mites are sometimes found in great numbers. Mogens Norn has studied the spreading of follicle mites in humans in Denmark.

Detection
Through a microscope, the mites are easy to find. Pull out some hairs on your nose using tweezers and examine the hair follicle that is pulled out. You can also press a piece of adhesive tape on wings of the nose. Then you examine the tape under a microscope. Your ophthalmologist can see the mites that live in the eyelid edge (if there are many).

Harmful effects
Most scientists agree that, generally speaking, human follicle mites are harmless or even beneficial. 98% of the people who are infected by the follicle mites never feel or see their presence. Many mites in the upper and lower eyelids edges can apparently cause itching, swelling and inflammation. The problem is, however, that we do not know about if the follicle mites cause the skin problems on the face or if they are simply benefiting from the situation.

Control
Seek help from dermatologist or ophthalmologist when making the diagnosis. Few diseases of the facial skin or the eyelid edge have anything to do with mites. If you want treat the skin based on suspicion alone, you can apply a sulphur ointment on the face. For the eyelid edges, you can apply the ointment used to treat pubic lice same place. The ointments are available over the counter at pharmacies.