Could Demodex Mites Be a Rosacea Cause?

It's enough to make your skin crawl, especially if you have rosacea. A microscopic skin bug might be a contributing factor for rosacea or perhaps a rosacea cause. Medical research shows an apparent link between Demodex mites and rosacea, but the relationship is complicated.

Demodex mites are a normal inhabitant of human skin in adults over 30 years old, says Jill Waibel, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Miami, Fla. and on the volunteer faculty at the University of Miami School of Dermatology. "The Demodex mites often live in the sebaceous [oil] glands of the nose, forehead, chin, and scalp," she says. Those are the same areas of the face that are commonly affected by rosacea. Dr. Waibel notes that the mites, officially known as Demodex folliculorum mites, are frequently found in the pus and other contents of rosacea pimples.

Most people aren't aware that Demodex mites are on their skin. In most case, there are no symptoms. The mites become a problem when many take up residence on the face. Waibel says that for some people, particularly those with a suppressed immune system, the mite population can dramatically increase. This population explosion can cause itching, inflammation, and other skin disorders. The mites also can affect the eyelids, causing blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid).

Demodex Mites: A Rosacea Cause?

Rosacea affects an estimated 16 million Americans and its cause is not known, but 's thought that many factors may play a role in the inflammatory disorder, including genetics, vascular problems, and possibly Demodexmites. According to the National Rosacea Society, Demodex folliculorum has been found in greater numbers in people with rosacea. However, it's not clear if the mites are a rosacea cause or if the rosacea creates an appealing breeding ground for the mites.

It's possible the mites themselves aren't to blame for rosacea, but rather a conduit. Waibel says there is some evidence connecting a bacterium that is found in Demodex mites to some forms of rosacea.

A recent Irish study linked subtype 2 rosacea (the kind that causes red bumps and pimples) and Bacillus oleronius, or B. oleronius. Researchers analyzed the blood of 46 study participants and found that a protein produced by the bacteria caused an immune system response in 73 percent of the 22 people with rosacea compared with only 29 percent of 17 subjects without the disorder. The researchers concluded that the protein possibly triggers inflammation, which results in the red bumps and pimples. Another recent study linked the mites and the bacteria with some cases of ocular (eye) rosacea.

More About Demodex Mites

The mites are transferred between people through body contact with hair, eyebrows, or the nose, says Waibel. Different species of animals host different species of Demodex with different results. A Demodex mite causes the skin disease mange in dogs, for example. But don't worry about catching Demodexmites from your four-legged friends. Says Waibel,"Demodexis not usually contagious between different species."

Though she adds "at this time we do not know how to prevent being exposed to Demodexmites," cleansing with a gentle, non-oily cleanser and avoiding greasy makeup may help keep the mite population in check.

If Demodex mites are making your skin condition worse, your dermatologist can prescribe safe, easy, and effective rosacea treatments. "Usually after three days of therapy, Demodex can no longer be seen in the treated area." Waibel says.

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