It’s hard to believe that some of the first words heard by the parents of Elizabeth Taylor (the actress once considered the world’s most beautiful woman in her heyday) were that their newborn daughter had a mutation. Nonetheless, the mutation wasn’t a deformity.
It only meant that Elizabeth was born with two rows of eyelashes. And in this case, Taylor’s mutation—double eyelashes—only served to highlight her beautiful face and dazzling blue-violet eyes.
A second row of eyelashes that form a full fringe around those captivating peepers may sound like a girl’s best friend and a makeup artist’s dream. But it’s not always the case. Taylor’s twin set of lashes resulted from a genetic mutation called Distichiasis, or double eyelashes. However, not all double lashes call for concern.
Read on to learn more about double eyelashes and explore the steps you can take to
Double Eyelashes (distichiasis) Explained
Distichiasis, often known as double eyelashes, is an uncommon disorder where you have two rows of lashes on each eye. The second row may consist of one, a few eyelashes, or a whole set. Additionally, they could be shorter or thinner than your first row of lashes.
Dr. Aaron Fay, an ophthalmic plastic surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, notes that eyelashes often grow on the outside border of the eyelid and may not necessarily grow in one straight row.
When extra eyelashes grow on either the upper or lower eyelids (or both), they are called distichiae. However, it’s referred to as distichia when there is just one additional eyelash. And if you attentively inspect yourself in the mirror, you might not be able to see it. But by using a specialized microscope, you will easily detect another row.
The double lashes aren’t always as cosmetically enhancing as Taylor’s turned out to be. According to Fay, potential issues can arise when hairs grow on the tiny ledge of skin closer to the eye where the eyelash rubs against the eyeball and could:
– Break down the eye’s surface cells and impair vision.
– Irritate the eyes, increase tears, and even cause irritation.
According to estimates, about one person in 10,000 will suffer from distichiasis.
Types of Distichiasis
There are two types of distichiasis:
- Acquired Distichiasis
- Congenital Distichiasis
Congenital distichiasis occurs when an epithelial cell, a part of the system meant to protect your organs, transforms into a pilosebaceous unit.
Rare genetic changes to the FOXC2 gene on chromosome 16 primarily cause congenital distichiasis. The gene aids lymphatic and blood vascular development during embryonic development.
The exact genetic abnormality that results in double eyelashes is unclear to scientists. However, congenital distichiasis typically occurs in conjunction with a rare illness called lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome (LDS).
The lymphedema distichiasis syndrome is hereditary. People who have this syndrome have both lymphedema and distichiasis.
The lymphatic system disorder known as lymphedema causes excessive lymph to accumulate in the body’s soft tissues, typically in the arms and legs.
The fluid, or lymph, seeps into the tissues from the blood arteries. This fluid is often drained and filtered by the lymphatic system through lymphatic vessels.
The fluid, however, builds up in the tissue and results in swelling if the lymphatic veins aren’t functioning properly. LDS patients frequently experience swelling in both legs.
In LDS, the lymphatic vessels could be:
- Functioning incorrectly
Other conditions linked to LDS include structural heart problems, cleft palate, scoliosis, early-onset varicose veins, and irregular heartbeats.
About 5% of LDS patients have congenital heart disease due to the cardiac abnormalities associated with the condition. Though highly unlikely, it is also theoretically possible to inherit distichiasis without lymphedema.
Acquired distichiasis, also called developing double eyelashes, is less common than congenital ones. It results from inflammation or damage to the eyelid. Regular causes include:
- Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), a rare condition that causes chronic skin inflammation and mucous membranes, including eyelids, due to allergic reactions.
- Chronic blepharitis, an eyelid inflammation caused by bacterial or skin disorders. In addition to excessive tearing and dryness, symptoms may include itching, swelling, and burning.
- Ocular cicatricial pemphigoid (OCP), a rare, persistent autoimmune condition that leaves scars on the lips, throat, and eyes.
- Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), a condition characterized by aberrant meibomian gland discharge and excessive secretion.
- Chemical injuries to your eyelids may cause severe inflammation.
Symptoms of Double Lashes
- Eye pain
- Vision loss
- Sensitivity to light
- Scarring of your cornea
- Feeling as if something is rubbing against your eye when you blink
How to Troubleshoot Double Eyelashes
Most people with double eyelashes won’t need treatment, but those who experience the symptoms above must visit an eye doctor to remove the extra eyelashes. Your doctor may get rid of the excess hairs using the following methods:
- Electrolysis– This procedure uses electricity and short-wave radio frequency to remove the extra lashes. In most cases, the “misdirected eyelashes” usually grow back after a few weeks, rendering the method ineffective.
- Argon laser thermoblation. In this procedure, lasers eliminate the hair follicles that help grow the extra eyelashes.
- Epilation. With epilation, an epilator is used to remove the eyelashes. It actually pulls them out. It’s a temporary solution, as the lashes often grow back in two to three weeks. We only advise it if you have a few extra lashes.
- Cryotherapy. Cryotherapy uses freezing temperatures to kill the eyelash follicles. If you have a bunch of extra lashes, this technique will give you long-lasting results. And while cryotherapy has long-lasting results, it can cause: eyelid scarring, loss of nearby eyelashes, thinning of the eyelid edge, and lid depigmentation.
- Lid splitting. Lid splitting (a type of eye surgery). Your doctor will split apart your eyelid during this surgical operation to expose the eyelash follicles. They’ll then remove the extra eyelashes. Frequently, this treatment gets combined with electrolysis or cryotherapy.
Occasionally, eyedrops or an ointment can effectively cure these issues. Some people may find that the solution is to wear contact lenses, which protect the eye’s surface since the additional lashes will rub the lens rather than the eye itself.
You might think that having double eyelashes would be a good thing. And distichiasis isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nevertheless, distichiasis could cause eye pain or irritation. You can experience recurring infections like styes. You can potentially have lymphedema distichiasis syndrome.
So, if you are experiencing any of these issues, speak with your eye doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis paves the way for early relief and treatment.
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