Extra Eyelashes (Distichiasis)
Louis N. Gotthelf, DVM
Animal Hospital of Montgomery
Distichiasis is a condition where eyelashes emerge from a structure in the eyelid (meibomian gland) which does not normally produce hairs. These “extra eyelashes” emerge so close to the eye that they can contact the ocular surfaces and can cause discomfort and corneal damage. Distichiasis is considered an inherited problem as it is much more common in certain breeds of dogs including Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Golden Retrievers, and Cocker Spaniels.
At Animal Hospital of Montgomery, we scan examine for distichiasis using our high magnification VETSCOPE in the exam room with you present.
The severity of the problem and the need for treatment vary from patient to patient. Some patients may have only a few, soft distichia on a single eyelid while others may have full rows of abnormal hairs on all eyelids. Although some patients with distichia are asymptomatic, many animals require treatment in order to alleviate irritation caused by the hairs rubbing on the cornea of the eye.
Signs that can be indicative of ocular irritation include redness of the eyes, squinting, ocular discharge/tearing, and/or rubbing at the eyes.
Sometimes distichia can cause corneal ulcers or erosions when the hairs touch the cornea of the eye. Corneal ulcers can be very painful and can lead to vision loss in severe cases.
Pulling out the abnormal hairs in the exam room may provide temporary relief, but these lashes almost always grow back. Topical ointments may be used to help lubricate the eyes, which can provide some relief from the abnormal hairs. Depending upon the patient, surgery might be recommended as the ideal approach.
We recommend laser hair removal for distichiasis as the fastest and often the least expensive method of dealing with distichiasis.
Using a CO2 Laser with a very thin tip, the cells making up the hair
follicle are destroyed individually along the affected eyelid margin.