An ingrown eyelash, sometimes called trichiasis, is a condition that is caused when your eyelashes grown inwardly toward your eye. The condition can be caused by infection, inflammation, autoimmune deficiencies or trauma to the eyes. A result of the condition is that it can obstruct your view or irritate your eyes.
The most common cause of ingrown eyelashes is an infectious disease known as trachoma. Although rare in the developed nations, trachoma is the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide. The disease spreads in countries where poor hygiene is a factor, and often spreads from child to child, child to mother, and mother to mother. Trachoma is treated through oral antibiotics.
Another issue that can lead to ingrown hairs is epiblepharon. Epiblepharon is a congenital disorder that occurs when the muscles surrounding the eye area cause the skin to push a person's lashes inward. It is most common in persons of Asian descent and can be corrected with surgery.
In developed nations, simple trichiasis, or having only one or two ingrown hairs, is more common. Simple trichiasis can be caused by infection spread through contaminated cosmetics, contact lens care or frequent touching of the eye area with dirty hands. This can lead to infected eyelash follicles.
If you have developed simple trichiasis, you may notice a swelling of your eyelash follicle. It may also form a sty, obstructing your vision. If left untreated, the eyelash grows inward. Eventually, the eyelash can scratch or even scar your eye's cornea.
Under no circumstances should you seek to treat simple trichiasis yourself. Instead seek the advice of a medical doctor or a vision specialist such as an ophthalmologist. Unless complications arise, the treatment may involve lubricated eye drops, destroying the hair through electrolysis, followed by a round of antibiotics to fight off infection. Your ophthalmologist may also recommend hot and cold compresses to reduce the swelling.