Why are my eyelashes falling out

Eyelashes and their function

The eyelashes are hair that grows out of the edges of our eyelids and are very sensitive to any kind of touch. In fact, it is this sensitivity that makes eyelashes effective in the function that they serve on our body. Eyelashes are connected at their roots to two main types of glands, the Glands of Moll and the Glands of Zeis. The unilobar sebaceous glands of Zeis keep the eyelashes clean, while the ciliary glands of Moll serve to reduce evaporation.

The functionality of eyelashes resides in the fact that they are sensitive to touch and thus they act as a warning mechanism to protect our eyes from any kind of external objects. As soon as an insect, dust or any other kind of object comes in the proximity of the eyes and touches our eyelashes, our eyes close in a reflex action to that touch. Apart from the biological function that it was meant to serve, eyelashes have also been focused on by the fashion-conscious among us since ancient times.

Why do they fall out?

It is perfectly natural to lose a few eyelashes every once in a while as they soon get replaced by new, growing hair follicles. However, an excessive loss of eyelashes indicates some sort of a health issue. The condition which defines this is known as ciliary madarosis and there are a host of reasons that can be responsible for it.

Mechanical reasons

Rubbing and scratching – Although a common practice, it can cause ones eyelashes to be plucked right out of their roots if done excessively. If allergies are the reason behind the excessive rubbing and scratching, then one should consult a doctor and take appropriate measures.

Eye makeup – Putting on and removing eye makeup daily can also have the same effect as it requires a lot of effort and thus puts stress on the sensitive eyelashes.

Using an eyelash curler – Eyelash curlers put stress on the eyelashes making their roots weak, but it might be particularly detrimental to the hair follicles if one uses a curler after putting on mascara.

OCD – Some suffer from trichotillomania, an obsessive-compulsive disorder which causes them to pull out their own eyelashes (as well as other kinds of hair from different parts of the body) consciously and subconsciously. The condition might require psychological treatment.

Diseases and disorders

Blepharitis – The origin of blepharitis can be any of a multitude of reasons, but it is characterized by swelling of eyelids (at the joint of the eyelashes) and loss of eyelashes. The swollen portion is usually itchy, reddish, and flaky; the result of an infected or malfunctioning gland of Zeis/Moll. Common reasons behind such problems include bacterial infections, rosacea and dermatitis. Sometimes, the harmless mite known as Demodex folliculorum may also cause blepharitis if they multiply beyond normal acceptable levels, causing demodicosis.

Chemotherapy – Hair loss from all parts of one’s body is common for a cancer patient who is undergoing chemotherapy, due to effects of radiation on the body.

Alopecia Areata – A unique disorder where ones own immune system attacks hair follicles on all parts of the body, causing hair loss.

Thyroid – Imbalance in functioning of thyroid glands, whether it is over-secretion or under-secretion, can lead to massive hair loss, even from the eyelids as well.