Frequently Asked Questions

What is demodex?


The demodex folliculorum and demodex brevis parasites are microscopic mites. These mites live in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands of people and some animals. Many dogs have these mites, while it is less likely to occur in cats.


Demodex folliculorum mites are the longer of the two mites, and they live in hair follicles. The shorter demodex brevis mites live in sebaceous glands.


The mites are clear and glass like. They can only be viewed under a microscope. Their life span is about 15 days. These parasitic mites come up to the skin's surface at night (or during darkened conditions) to breed. They return to the skin's interior to lay eggs.


It takes up to five months, with regular treatment, to completely rid the skin of mites. After eliminating the mites, skin rejuvenation and repair can begin, and can take up to one year depending on age, genetics, and overall health.


Why does it take so long to get rid of the mites?


Mites take time to kill because they burrow deep into the sebaceous glands and hair follicles. The eggs cannot be killed and must hatch before they can be affected by treatments. The time from breeding to hatching can be up to 20 days, so continuous, consistent treatment is critical.


Remember to expect the mites to die and decompose inside the skin. This decomposition process may cause irritation in some people, and it can appear that treatment is not working, but do not interrupt the treatment. This condition does clear up after the demodex mites are eliminated.


Can demodex mites cause any damage to skin or scalp?


Yes! The mites suck nutrients from the hair roots and do damage to the cell walls. They burrow into the skin introducing infection and bacteria to the area. After dying, their corpses liquefy and decompose inside the skin.


One symptom of demodex infestation is a rosacea-like skin discoloration. Other signs of demodex includes enlarged pores, enlarged and damaged capillaries, bumpy and enlarged looking nose, hyperplasia of cells, and the appearance of pimples or acne-like pustules.


Ofter indications of demodex are the flaking of eyebrows, scalp, and granular, sandy residue in eyelashes. Some people and animals experience itching that can become almost unbearable. If the scalp is producing showers of white flakes, demodex can be indicated.


It is postulated that demodex mites cause thinning hair and eyelashes. While there is more than one cause of hair loss, demodex mites can be a contributing factor.


Why haven't I heard about demodex mites?


Most research regarding demodex has been done outside the U.S. Researchers in China have done extensive demodex studies for the last 30 years.


Perhaps we in the west do not routinely visit a dermatologist as readily as we visit with other medical specialists. It is more likely that an optometrist, ophthalmologist, or dermatologist would be familiar with this parasite.


Is demodex contagious?


Yes. Use your own hairbrush, comb, and towel. Do not share these items with others. Wash your pillowcase and bedding quite often.


Avoid touching your face and eyes after touching your pet, and wash your hands immediately with a treatment soap after petting any animal.


Is it possible to have demodex and not know it?


Yes. A healthy immune system may keep demodex under management for years, that is why the elderly whose immune systems are likely to be weak, test positive for demodex in such large numbers. Chinese researchers have found that nearly all of those elderly people (over 75 years of age) who have had skin scrapings examined are positive for demodex.

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