Demodex - what exactly are we dealing with?
Demodex, a small skin parasite, belongs to the mite family, specifically arachnids (arthropods). It causes a disease called demodicosis, which affects both humans and animals. Since rosacea is one of its symptoms, demodex is sometimes confused with the condition and thus misdiagnosed and treated.
Only two species of Demodex live on humans: Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. Both types attack the face, eyebrows and eyelashes. Importantly, Demodex is not uncommon, although most infected people may not experience symptoms. Demodex was discovered and described in 1841 by German scientists, and in 1982 the first publication on the parasite that lives on the human body appeared. Today, the appropriate methods of treatment are already known, which we will write about later in this article.
WHERE IS DEMODEX LIVING AND HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Demodex are very small, invisible to the naked eye (they can be between 0.28 – 0.40 mm in length), and because they are so difficult to recognise, usually patients start treatment at a later stage, when it is much more difficult to control the parasite. In the initial stage of development, the larva has three pairs of crotch legs, while the remaining part of the parasite remains embedded in the tissue (human skin). A well-developed individual has four legs that provide him with excellent grip. Demodex has a wormy, oblong shape. It is divided into three parts: front, middle and back. In the front part, there are three-part strokes and chelicers, thanks to which boredom can absorb food. The middle part is equipped with roller-shaped legs, ending in claws. The average proportion can be as much as 80% of the parasite’s body.
DEMODEX LIFE CYCLE
Demodex develops in a cycle of 18 to 25 days. A fertilized female, which finds its way onto healthy human skin, lays eggs (about 24), and nymphs are formed from the hatched larvae at a later stage. In the adult stage, Demodex mites are able to reproduce.
These parasites like a warm and wet environment; they forage most often at night (starting from the hair follicles). They avoid sunlight from the very beginning. Temperatures below 0 and above 40 degrees are destructive for them. As Demodex can travel about 16 cm in a day, it spreads quite quickly.
WHAT DOES THEY EAT ?
Demodex feeds on sebum, secretion from sebaceous glands, plasma filtrate and epithelial cells, which are cut with the help of jaw cells. By secreting lytic enzymes, the parasite digests food and turns it into a liquid, which is sucked into its digestive tract.
WHERE IS IT OCCURRING AND HOW CAN YOU GET IT?
Demodex is found all over the world, in all climatic zones, including the polar regions. It is not difficult to get infected: parasites are transmitted through physical contact with an infected person, dust and wind (Demodex eggs can land on human skin through a blast of air), and the source of infection may be clothes, cosmetic accessories, etc. Demodex sticks to the sebum covered face and then penetrates the pores. The mouth organ of the parasite and its legs point towards the endothelium of the follicle, while the spine entwines the base of the hair.
Interestingly, daily hygiene, the use of care products available in drugstores and depilation do not reduce the invasion of Demodex on the skin – special preparations are needed to fight parasites. The disease affects both women and men.
It is worth knowing that an additional factor that exposes us to demodicosis is the reduced immunity of the body, related, for example, to various chronic diseases or taking steroids or even to old age.
However, immune disorders can also be associated with chronic stress, alcohol and drug abuse, or excessive exposure of the skin to harmful factors.
HOW DO WE RECOGNIZE WHAT WE ARE INFECTED ?
- In the early and late stages, tickling / crawling sensation (through the movement of parasites)
- In moderately advanced, itching and redness
- In advanced stages, severe itching and reddening of the skin with eruptions
Symptoms of the presence of demodicosis on the skin often resemble rosacea (demodex can be directly responsible for the formation of acne and other skin lesions or exacerbate the condition of the skin caused by another pathogen). In addition, a symptom of a disease called demodicosis can also include:
- Erythema, rashes, eruptions and other skin lesions or infections
- Peeling of the epidermis and very dry skin
- Folliculitis and loss of eyebrows and eyelashes (and hair)
- Blackheads and blackheads
- Swelling and swelling around skin lesions
- Dry eye syndrome
HOW DO DIAGNOSE PRESENCE OF DEMODEX MITES?
First of all, the doctor must send the patient for a laboratory test. The epidermis is scraped with a scalpel and then examined under a microscope. There are also other diagnostic methods, such as pulling out a few eyelashes for examination, or less popular, such as skin biopsy, where a specimen is taken for histological examination. It is very important that the primary care physician (for example, a dermatologist) correctly recognises the condition and does not confuse it with ordinary rosacea.
DEMODECOSIS ON EYE LID
Individual parasites are spread along with the dust, through direct contact with an infected person, or by using the same cosmetic utensils, towels and clothes. Demodex infected clothes and used things that previously belonged to someone else may become the source of infection. It may also be spread with a blast of air, along with the dust. Parasite’ eggs are particularly easy to adhere to oily surfaces, and then penetrate into the pores of the skin.
TREATMENT OF DEMODEX
Treatment of demodicosis is primarily aimed at inhibiting the reproduction of parasites and eliminating all living individuals. It will be very important to follow hygiene; specialist washing preparations should be used, i.e. soaps, shampoos, moist wipes and appropriate creams. In the case of eyelid demodecosis, warm compresses and massages are also used. However, the recommendations will not always be the same.
Treatment of demodecosis is quite problematic, because these parasites are resistant to many antibiotics, which does not mean that antibiotic therapy is completely ineffective, as it helps in the fight against bacteria. Patients usually use Metronidazole cream (XFML). Taking antibiotics orally is not advisable. Each patient receives an individually selected set of agents to be applied to the skin. It is recommended to change bed linen frequently and wash it at high temperature, just like towels.
Demodex treatment can take up to few months. This is due to the fact that not all individuals live on the skin, a large part of them are in deeper layers, at different stages of development. It is important to use the recommended preparations regularly, in the morning and in the evening, or more often, if prescribed.
THE BEST PRODUCTS FOR THERAPY
These are the products that really help in the fight against Demodex.
- XFML and Fumanling cream – recommended for use in morning care. It has been specially developed to fight the Demodex family of mites. Its basis is mainly active substances, herbs and vitamins. These products has bactericidal properties, eliminates mites, regulates the secretion of sebum, narrows the pores. In the long term, the skin becomes smooth and shiny, and acne lesions visibly diminish.
- ZZ ointment for acne and Demodex – it is a zinc sulfur ointment ZZ – Zhong Zhou, recommended for use in night care. The content of zinc oxide and sublimated sulfur effectively fights skin changes caused by bacteria, fungi and demodicosis. The ointment accelerates healing, gently exfoliates the epidermis and eliminates mites. The product has won numerous international awards.