What Is Madarosis?

Madarosis is a medical term that is used to describe the loss of eyelashes or eyebrows. There are many potential causes for madarosis, some which could be fatal without proper treatment, so a complete physical examination is necessary in order to accurately diagnose the underlying cause. Patients are often referred to several types of specialists, including endocrinologists, dermatologists, and internists. There is no specific treatment for this symptom, as it is necessary to diagnose and treat the underlying condition. Any questions or concerns about madarosis or individualized treatment options should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Burns, traumatic injuries, or certain surgical procedures may sometimes lead to the development of madarosis. Infection or inflammation of the eyelids are other possible causes of this symptom. Once the underlying medical condition has been successfully treated, the eyelashes or eyebrows will usually grow back in a normal fashion.

Trichotillomania is a type of impulsive disorder that causes the affected person to compulsively pull out his own hair, often including the eyebrows and eyelashes. This can be a difficult disorder to treat and often takes several months or years to effectively control the impulses that cause the patient to pull out his hair. A combination of prescription medications and behavior therapy is the most effective treatment method for trichotillomania.


Certain autoimmune diseases may involve madarosis as a symptom, although not everyone who is diagnosed with these diseases will develop this type of hair loss. Some of the most common autoimmune diseases with the potential to lead to the development of madarosis include lupus, alopecia areata, and scleroderma. Treatment of these diseases may help the eyelashes and eyebrows to grow back, although this is not always the case.

Some forms of cancer or congenital birth defects may cause madarosis in some cases. Treatment options may include radiation treatment, chemotherapy, or surgical intervention. Some medications, especially those used to treat heart or thyroid conditions, have been known to cause this symptom, and in most cases the hair grows back after the medication has been stopped.

Endocrine disorders affecting the thyroid gland or pituitary gland may sometimes lead to madarosis. These hormone disorders can be fatal in some instances if not properly diagnosed and treated in a timely manner. Medications may be helpful, although surgery is frequently needed, depending on the reason for the disorder. Any loss of eyelashes or eyebrows should be reported to a doctor for further medical evaluation.


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Post 13

I wish people were kinder. I've never had eyebrows. They never grew on me. I don't know why. I do sort of have eyelashes, but they are sparser than you can imagine. People will always rudely ask me "Why do you shave them off and then draw them back on?" I'm forced to either draw on a pair, or go natural with no eyebrow hair at all, which also draws rude comments. I can't win. I've been laughed at, been called "freak," "ugly" you name it. I wish people understood not all of us have a choice in the matter.

Post 12

@burcinc – My sister had trichotillomania, and though it started with her need to pluck out her lashes and eyebrows, it soon grew into an urge to pluck her body and head hair. She would eat the hair, and we couldn't seem to make her stop.

After a year of this behavior, she started feeling really ill. She had nausea and severe constipation, so her doctor recommended an x-ray.

He found a large hairball in her intestines! She had to have it surgically removed, and the doctor saved it and showed it to her afterward. She was so grossed out, and this put her on the road to recovery, because just thinking about pulling out her hair and eating it nauseated her.

Post 11

I had a friend in high school who used to pull her eyebrow hairs out obsessively. She didn't even draw them back on with a pencil. She just had a very blank looking forehead.

I found out a few years later that she had died from some birth defect no one in our school even knew she had. I suppose it was related to her need to pull out the eyebrow hair.

This probably made a few of the bullies feel bad about teasing her all those years. She was always my friend, and I didn't care about her lack of eyebrows, but other kids were not so nice.

Post 10

My sister and her husband have been foster parents to many foster kids through the years.

I remember one little girl in particular who had trichotillomania and she would pull out her eyebrows, eyelashes, and small clumps of her hair.

At first they took her to a medical doctor, but he told them this was a behavior problem and she needed to get some counseling.

This made sense since the girl came from a horrible family situation. Pulling out her hair was one way she tried to deal with all of the stress.

It took a long time for her to work through all of these issues. The longer she was in a stable, loving home, the less problem she had with this.

Post 9

One of the madarosis causes listed was chemotherapy, and this happened to me when I had breast cancer.

I lost all of my hair, including my eyelashes and eyebrows. Even though you know this is going to happen, there is no way you can really prepare yourself for this.

Not only are you feeling physically sick from the side effects, but you feel self-conscious and emotionally down because you don't have any hair.

Even something that seems so minor as eyelashes really makes a difference. I am so thankful everything grew back once I got through all of my treatment.

My eyelashes and eyebrows are the same color and thickness they were before, but my hair came back in thicker than it had been.

Post 8

Once when my husband was trying to fix the furnace, something blew up in his face, and caused loss of his eye lashes and most of his eyebrows.

He is lucky he was not seriously hurt. He has blonde hair, so this was not nearly as noticeable as it would have been if he had dark hair.

All he could do was wait for them to grow back. This took several weeks before they looked the same again. He felt pretty funny about it, but not all of his eyelashes were gone so that helped a little.

While he was waiting for his eyelashes to grow back, he wore sunglasses every chance he had.

Post 7

I have had madarosis a couple of times during lupus breakouts. I don't have a breakout often since I take medications for it regularly. But when I do, I have loss of eye lashes, eyebrows and hair. It's a really disheartening and frustrating symptom.

My doctor thinks that it has to do with vitamin deficiencies related to lupus, particularly deficiency in vitamin B12 and also iron. Everything goes back to normal when my lupus symptoms subside though.

Post 6

I have a friend who does not have any eyebrows or eyelashes but I don't think she has madarosis. She doesn't have any hair on her body at all, and I think this is a different medical condition.

She was born this way and has lived with this her whole life. She wears a wig and uses an eyebrow pencil for her eyebrows.

She also wears glasses, so you don't notice the eyelashes so much. I think this would be a very hard thing to deal with, but she handles it great.

In fact, if you didn't know this about her, you wouldn't even realize it unless you looked really close. I always wondered why her hair looked perfect all the time.

I was kind of embarrassed when I said something one time, because that is how I found she has this condition.

Post 5

I had madarosis for a while because of eyelash mites. These are tiny creatures called demodicids that live at the base of our eyelashes. They feed on the sebum (oil) and dead skin. I've learned that they're actually not all that bad. It's normal to have some because they keep our skin clean. But sometimes they can multiply to huge numbers. And since they live at the base of eyelashes, the more mites there are, the more eyelashes fall out.

I found out I had a mite infection when I went to the eye doctor and mentioned that I was losing too many lashes. He looked through a microscope and saw the infection. He prescribed anti-bacterial drops and

described to me a method to clean my lashes.

I put a drop or two or baby shampoo in hot water and used a cotton ball to wipe my eyelashes every day. Day by day, it got better and my lashes stopped falling out.

Apparently, this is something that can happen to anyone because we all have eyelash mites. My doctor said to clean my eyes with this method once a week even after the infection is gone. I have been doing that and my madarosis has not come back.

Post 4

@croydon-- I have a friend who has trichotillomania. She pulls out her hair all the time and sometimes even eats the ends. It's gotten to the point where she's developing bald spots on her head. She just started getting treatment and is doing a lot better.

I don't think you have trichotillomania. My friend actually enjoys pulling her hair out. She says it makes her feel better, even though she hates the thought of going bald because of this terrible habit.

I think this bad habit becomes a disorder if you pull out your hair chronically and excessively. If you see that you are losing all your eyelashes, it's probably a disorder. Just be conscious of it and notice it when it's happening. And confide in your parents, don't be scared to ask for help. This is a disorder just like any other. There is nothing to be ashamed about.

Post 3

I can't imagine waking up one day to realize my eyelashes were falling out. I mean, they do fall out occasionally, but they seem like such an important part of a person I would just take them for granted most of the time. If I realized they were falling out and didn't have a reason for them to be doing so, I think I would absolutely freak out and go straight to a doctor.

And after reading this article and seeing what can cause eyelash loss, I think I'm going to be even more paranoid about it. I mean, I know it's not likely I'll ever experience it without cause, but still. One more thing to keep an eye on, so to speak.

Post 2

@croydon - It might not really be related to trichotillomania at all though. I've always thought of that as being more like the fact that birds will pull out their feathers when they are very stressed, or that animals will start to gnaw on themselves.

You might just have a nervous habit, like some people crack their knuckles or tap on a hard surface when they are nervous or bored.

I think it can be quite difficult to self diagnose. If you are worried about it, you can see a doctor, but if not it's not really that important (although I agree it can be fun to speculate!)

If, however, someone really is pulling out their own hair, they should definitely

see someone about it. It's embarrassing, which is why people often don't get help, but embarrassing ailments can really cripple people who feel like they can't interact normally because of them.

Psychiatrists and even GPs can help with this sort of thing, you shouldn't just go through it alone.

Post 1

Trichotillomania is fascinating to me, since I do tend to sometimes pull out my own hair. I don't do it to the point of looking like I've got eyelash loss, at all, since I tend to just, for example, tug gently at my eyelashes and eyebrows to remove any that are loose.

It's a weird habit, and I've often wondered if it is borderline trichotillomania. They say that that disorder is related to things like biting your finger nails, and I do that too, but nowhere near as bad as I've noticed some people do.

So, maybe I've just got a very mild case of it? People don't really think of those kinds of disorders as being on a spectrum

but I think more and more researchers are discovering that most mental illnesses are on a spectrum and can't really be pinned to one point or another.

I'm not too worried about it, since it doesn't do me any harm, it's just interesting and a good perspective on the world.

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