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The eyelashes contribute a lot to the appearance of one's eyes. Long, thick eyelashes are often associated with beauty and femininity, and can therefore contribute to one's self-esteem. Aside from their aesthetic value, eyelashes also protect the eyes from irritants and small foreign bodies, which stimulate reflex closing of the eyelids.

The eyelash hair grows at a rate of about 0.15 mm per day. They can last for five to six months before they fall out. If plucked, a new lash grows in about eight to ten weeks.

The medical term that describes loss of eyelashes is milphosis, while madarosis describes the loss of eyelashes and/or eyebrow hairs. You have heard of the term alopecia, which is a more general term that describes loss of hair from any part of the body.

Eyelashes can be lost by a number of ways:

  • Various skin diseases that affect the face near the eyes can cause lashes to fall out. These include psoriasis, lichen planus, ichtyosis, acrodermatitis,and Dermatophytosis. These skin diseases may be caused by infection, autoimmune disease, or hypersensitivity reactions.

  • Nutritional deficiencies involving zinc, protein, and biotin are known to cause loss of hair, including eyelashes.

  • Aesthetic preparations such as retinoids and topical minoxidil can have side effects affecting the eyelashes.

  • Congenital conditions such as congenital atrichia, which is a unique hair loss pattern that begins even in childhood.

  • Some drugs can cause loss of eyelashes, such as chemotherapy drugs, cocaine, anticoagulants, miotics, anticholesterol drugs, propranolol, and antithyroid drugs.

  • Infectious diseases such as leprosy, herpes zoster, tuberculosis, syphilis, fungal infections and cholera can lead to milphosis or madarosis.

  • It may be a symptom of an endocrine disease affecting the thyroid, parathyroid or pituitary glands.

  • Trauma from radiation, eyelid surgery, burns, and tattooing of the eyelids can cause loss of eyelashes.

  • Malignancy, inflammation, and intoxication with arsenic, Bismuth, gold, quinine, thallium, and vitamin A can affect the eyelashes.

  • A psychiatric condition called trichotillomania involves compulsive pulling out of one's hair, including the lashes to relieve tension or derive pleasure.

To treat loss of eyelashes, it is best to determine first the root cause and manage it. Treating a skin disease, reducing drug intake, or improving your nutrition can help restore eyelash growth but loss of lashes associated with congenital deficiencies or severe burns may need special treatments.

Bimatoprost ophthalmic solution 0.03% is an FDA-approved drug to enhance eyelash growth. Other treatments may include eyelash grafting, transplantation and reconstructive surgery.

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