An ingrown eyelash occurs when one of the eyelashes begins to grow in an inward direction, toward the eye. Symptoms may include swelling of the hair follicle or the development of a bump, called a stye, that may obstruct part of the vision. Without proper treatment, the eyelash may eventually scratch or damage the cornea of the eye. It is not generally considered safe to attempt to treat an ingrown eyelash at home due to the possibilities of creating more damage to the sensitive eye. It is much safer to allow a healthcare professional to remove the eyelash or perform other procedures as deemed necessary.
Epilation is the name of the medical procedure that is most commonly used to remove an eyelash that has become ingrown. For this procedure, the healthcare professional will typically place a special type of eye drops into the affected eye in order to numb it. He or she may then use a magnifying glass to locate which eyelash needs to be removed. Epilation forceps, similar to tweezers, will then be used to basically pluck out the eyelash. This is usually a short procedure, and removal is practically immediate.
Electrolysis may also sometimes be used to treat an ingrown eyelash. This procedure involves the use of an electrical current to kill the cells responsible for the formation of the eyelashes. For many patients, this is a permanent method of eyelash removal, although some will experience later regrowth. Antibiotics are frequently prescribed to prevent infection. Hot or cold compresses may be used following this procedure to reduce some of the associated swelling that may develop.
Cryotherapy treatment is also a possibility. Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze or destroy the hair follicle in order to prevent the eyelash from growing back. This is considered to be a safe and effective treatment option that requires a minimal recovery time.
In some cases, surgery may be done in order to correct the growth pattern of the eyelashes or to cut out the affected eyelash. Occasionally, the surgeon may decide to cut out an entire section of eyelashes in an attempt to prevent the condition from returning. In most instances, an eye specialist known as an ophthalmologist will perform any of these procedures, although other specialists, such as a cosmetic surgeon, may sometimes be consulted for assistance.