Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart.
Mites living and breeding on our faces, and causing unexplained redness, pus-filled pimples, spidery veins and bloodshot eyes? That sounds like a plot straight out of a sci-fi movie to me—but not according to the Journal of Medical Microbiology, whose recent study states that a particular mite may be responsible for rosacea, a common skin condition, which, for the longest time, had no known cause and no known cure. Well, until now!
Apparently, all of us have these microscopic mites on our faces, but the study suggests that people with rosacea have more of these mites on their faces than others. “Normally, adults have about one or two mites per square centimeter of facial skin, but those with rosacea may have 10 times as many,” says Kevin Kavanagh, one of the authors of the study.
Meet the Mite
These tiny eight-legged mites go by the name of Demodex folliculorum, and are said to be normal residents of the human skin, living around hair follicles and feeding on sebum. They increase in number as we age, get more stressed out or develop skin damage. While these mites have been retrieved from almost every area of human skin, they prefer the skin on the face, particularly on the nose, cheeks and forehead where the skin is oilier. Time.com states that these mites “crawl around your face at night to mate, then crawl back into your pores to lay eggs and die.”
But that’s not even the whole story. This is where the plot thickens: Kavanagh doesn’t think the mites cause rosacea. He said rosacea is caused by the skin’s reaction to the bacteria in the mites’ feces (yes, these bugs poop, too!). When mites are numerous—as in the case of people with rosacea—the bacteria buildup triggers an immune reaction, causing inflammation and tissue damage. He says, “Demodex does not have an anus and therefore cannot get rid of its feces. Their abdomen just gets bigger and bigger, and when they die and decompose they release their feces all at once in the pore.”
This is just getting better and better. I don’t know which is worse: keeping the mites in my pores or just killing them all together!
What Does this Mean to People with Rosacea?
Rosacea affects 16 million Americans, and about 5 to 20% of people worldwide. As common as it is, lack of information about its cause makes it difficult for scientists to develop a cure. These new findings, though revolting at best, at least provide a clear direction towards a more targeted and effective treatment for sufferers of rosacea. As of press time, Kavanagh is trying to get funding to develop antibodies to the bacterial proteins, to track their location and link them more firmly to the disease.
As for those who don’t have rosacea, next time you think about skipping sunblock or stressing over the littlest things, consider those filthy facial mites that would gladly feed on your mishaps!