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Normal Eyelashes vs Distichiasis: What You Need to Know

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have two rows of eyelashes instead of one? You might think that it would make your eyes look more glamorous and attractive, but the reality is not so simple. In fact, having an extra set of eyelashes can cause a lot of problems for your eyes and vision. This condition is called distichiasis, and it affects both humans and animals. In this blog post, we will explain what distichiasis is, what causes it, how it differs from normal eyelashes, and how it can be treated.

What is distichiasis?

Distichiasis is a rare genetic disorder that causes a person to have two rows of eyelashes on one or both eyelids. The extra eyelashes grow from the inner lining of the eyelid, called the meibomian gland, instead of the normal lash line. These abnormal lashes are usually thinner, shorter, and softer than normal lashes, and they tend to grow inward toward the eye. This can cause them to rub against the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye) or the conjunctiva (the thin membrane that covers the white part of the eye), causing irritation, inflammation, and damage.

What causes distichiasis?

Distichiasis can be either congenital (present at birth) or acquired (developed later in life). Congenital distichiasis is inherited from one or both parents, and it is usually associated with a mutation in the FOXC2 gene. This gene is involved in the development of the lymphatic system, which is responsible for draining excess fluid from the tissues. Some people with congenital distichiasis may also have lymphedema, which is swelling of the limbs due to fluid accumulation. This condition is called lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome.

Acquired distichiasis can be caused by various factors that affect the eyelid, such as chronic inflammation, infection, trauma, surgery, or chemical injury. These factors can stimulate the growth of abnormal lashes from the meibomian gland, which normally produces oil to lubricate the eye.

How does distichiasis differ from normal eyelashes?

Normal eyelashes are designed to protect the eye from dust, debris, and foreign objects. They also help to distribute tears evenly over the eye surface, keeping it moist and healthy. Normal eyelashes grow from the edge of the eyelid, and they have a natural curve that prevents them from touching the eye. They are usually thick, long, and stiff, and they shed and regrow every few weeks.

Distichiasis, on the other hand, is a disorder that causes abnormal eyelash growth that can harm the eye. The extra eyelashes grow from the inner lining of the eyelid, and they often point toward the eye. They are usually thin, short, and soft, and they do not shed or regrow. They can cause constant friction and irritation to the eye, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Redness
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Tearing
  • Dryness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye infections
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Corneal scarring
  • Vision loss

How is distichiasis diagnosed and treated?

Distichiasis can be diagnosed by an eye doctor during a comprehensive eye exam. The doctor will use a special microscope called a slit-lamp to examine the eyelids and the eye surface. The doctor may also use a dye to stain the cornea and check for any damage caused by the abnormal lashes.

The treatment for distichiasis depends on the severity of the condition and the symptoms. Some people with distichiasis may not need any treatment if they do not have any discomfort or eye problems. Others may need to use artificial tears, lubricating ointments, or anti-inflammatory eye drops to relieve the symptoms. However, these treatments are only temporary and do not address the root cause of the problem.

The definitive treatment for distichiasis is to remove the extra eyelashes permanently. This can be done by various methods, such as:

  • Electrolysis: This involves using an electric current to destroy the hair follicle of the abnormal lash. This is a precise and effective method, but it can be time-consuming and painful, and it may require multiple sessions.
  • Cryotherapy: This involves using extreme cold to freeze and kill the hair follicle of the abnormal lash. This is a quick and simple method, but it can cause swelling, scarring, and damage to the normal lashes or the eyelid skin.
  • Laser therapy: This involves using a laser beam to vaporize the hair follicle of the abnormal lash. This is a safe and painless method, but it can be expensive and it may not work for all types of lashes.
  • Surgery: This involves cutting out the part of the eyelid that contains the abnormal lashes. This is a permanent and effective method, but it can cause bleeding, infection, and changes in the eyelid shape.

The choice of treatment depends on the number, location, and type of abnormal lashes, as well as the preference and availability of the patient and the doctor. The goal of treatment is to eliminate the extra eyelashes and prevent any further damage to the eye.

Can I prevent distichiasis?

There is no way to prevent congenital distichiasis, which is inherited from your parents. However, you may be able to prevent acquired distichiasis, which can occur as a result of injury or inflammation to your eyelids. Some of the preventive measures you can take are:

  • Wear protective eyewear when working with chemicals, fire, or sharp objects that could damage your eyes.
  • Keep your eyelids clean and free of debris, makeup, or infection.
  • Treat any underlying conditions that may affect your eyelash growth, such as blepharitis, autoimmune diseases, or meibomian gland dysfunction.
  • Consult your eye doctor regularly and report any changes in your eyelashes or vision. Early detection and treatment can prevent further complications and damage to your eyes.

Can distichiasis cause blindness?

Distichiasis can cause blindness if it is left untreated and causes severe damage to the cornea. The cornea is the clear front layer of the eye that helps to focus light and protect the eye from infection and injury. If the extra eyelashes of distichiasis rub against the cornea, they can cause scratches, ulcers, scars, or infections that can impair the vision or lead to blindness. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if you have any symptoms of distichiasis, such as redness, irritation, pain, or blurred vision. There are various treatments available to remove the extra eyelashes and prevent further complication.


Here are some frequently asked questions about distichiasis:

  • Q: Is distichiasis contagious?
  • A: No, distichiasis is not contagious. It is a genetic or acquired disorder that affects the eyelash growth.
  • Q: Is distichiasis dangerous?
  • A: Distichiasis can be dangerous if it causes severe irritation and damage to the eye. It can lead to complications such as corneal ulcers, corneal scarring, and vision loss. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if you have any symptoms of distichiasis.
  • Q: Can distichiasis be cured?
  • A: Distichiasis can be cured by removing the extra eyelashes permanently. However, there is no cure for the underlying genetic mutation that causes congenital distichiasis. Therefore, people with congenital distichiasis may have a recurrence of the condition if new abnormal lashes grow from the meibomian gland.
  • Q: Can distichiasis affect animals?
  • A: Yes, distichiasis can affect animals, especially dogs. Some breeds of dogs, such as cocker spaniels, golden retrievers, and shih tzus, are more prone to distichiasis. Distichiasis can cause the same symptoms and complications in dogs as in humans, and it can be treated by the same methods.
  • Q: Can distichiasis make you more attractive?
  • A: Distichiasis may make you more attractive if you have a mild case of the condition and the extra eyelashes do not cause any problems for your eyes. Some people may find the double row of eyelashes to be a unique and beautiful feature. For example, the actress Elizabeth Taylor was famous for her violet eyes and her distichiasis, which gave her a stunning look. However, distichiasis can also make you less attractive if you have a severe case of the condition and the extra eyelashes cause irritation, inflammation, and damage to your eyes. In this case, you may have red, swollen, and watery eyes, which can affect your appearance and your self-esteem.

I hope this blog post helps you understand more about normal eyelashes vs distichiasis. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. Thank you for reading! 

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