Yes, so… it seems the eye issues must continue with my young love. Last fall, the poor little man was unlucky enough to develop an awful viral lesion on his right upper and lower eyelids, which landed him in Children’s Hospital for IV antiviral medications, and nearly landed me in the mental ward with insane levels of worry. His eye eventually recovered, after a 5 day stay in the hospital, and he was discharged with no actual corneal complications. If you’re familiar with cold sores, then you’ll know how they behave: blisters erupt, then sort of rupture, forming crusts and later scabs. All this happened along his eyelid margins, and he was discharged after no new blisters had appeared for over 36 hours. He went home with oral and topical eye meds, and as part of our routine, we had to clean crusty goop from his eyelashes several times per day. At first, I did the honors, but as time went on, he got proficient at cleaning his own eye fairly well. The eye recovered within about 10 days of hospital discharge. Or so we believed.
Ever heard of trichotillomania? This is my theory, as he’s not been very forthcoming as far as reasons for his behavior… it started several months ago with the right eye, the same eye that had all the blisters along the margin, the eye for which he had been having to clean crusts off his eyelashes. I think that either lingering irritated sensations persisted, or he just began to like pulling eyelashes, but in either case, a couple of months after the viral infection, I noticed his eyelashes were very sparse on that eye. I figured he lost them during the infection, and didn’t think too much of it. Then a couple of months back, I noticed that there were in fact no upper eyelashes on his right eye. Once there were none, he moved on to the left eye, and now my child has no eyelashes at all on either eye. It’s rather weird-looking. Though I must say that at least it’s symmetrical now, which makes it slightly less noticeable than before. Sigh.
His grandparents and teachers have all noticed, and he’s been lectured quite a bit about this behavior of pulling eyelashes, and I’ve tried to explain the function of eyelashes and why they’re important in terms of shielding our eyes against particulate matter and UV radiation, etc… and he will knowledgeably explain back to me the reasons why eyelashes are important, and add that people look funny without their eyelashes (which I can assume may have come from a grandparent or a teacher). However, it seems to be some sort of an OCD-like habit for him at this point.
I can relate to some extent. I happen to derive some level of enjoyment from pulling out a perfectly normal eyebrow hair or an eyelash now and then as well, and I definitely have an OCD-like compulsion to tweeze any erstwhile hairs on chin or around my eyebrows any time one pops up. And I wear mascara daily because it helps me to notice if I’m messing with my eyelashes- there’s a smear of mascara there on my fingers… otherwise I may do it subconsciously. So I can relate, though I’ve never pulled to the extent that the young love has done.
I read up about it, and the experts say that sometimes trichotillomania is caused by some underlying stress or anxiety disorder, which worries me, except that he seems pretty well adjusted, isn’t having problems at school, has good stability and is loved and doted upon at home. That’s why I tend to think he may have a tendency from me that was just sort of kick-started with the eyelid infection and has now become a “thing”… the experts also recommend not to constantly hound kids with trichotillomania about the behavior, and not to institute punishments etc. because that can just heighten any anxiety they may have, and actually aggravate the problem. Hard to imagine how it could be aggravated, unless, horrors, he moves on to pull out all his eyebrows next. Or the hair on his head or elsewhere, heaven forbid.
So, what to do? I did read that for some kids, the attraction is the act of pulling the hair, and for others, it’s after the fact- they like to roll the eyelash between their fingers after they’ve pulled it. I asked him if he could tell me which it was, and he said he likes to roll the eyelash between his fingers and that he catches himself doing this when he’s alone and doesn’t even remember pulling out the eyelash, just finds it rolling back and forth between his fingers. I asked him if he could think of a substitute item he might roll between his fingers instead of an eyelash, and he suggested a paper clip. So far, we’ve not had success with that because we either forget to send the paperclip, or he forgets it’s in his pocket. So my next approach was to offer something really tempting to him if he can grow his eyelashes back and keep them… I broke my own rule about gaming systems. Well, not a rule, just a dislike for them.
It’s to be an Xbox, if he grows his lashes and keeps them. Doesn’t even have to be a birthday or Christmas, in fact- it could be sooner, but the Xbox is his, with all the capabilities to create his own Minecraft mods that he so envies the YouTube Minecraft gurus… if and when he has a full compliment of eyelashes on both eyes.
He’s pretty motivated by this idea. So wish the little guy luck. We’ll see.