What Are Those Little White Bumps Under Your Eye?

Do you have little white dots that resemble pimples under your eyes? Typically, these tiny white dots are about the size of a pinhead, they're hard to the touch, and they don't go away easily. Known as milia, they can occur in children and adults of all ages. The good news is that they're harmless, but the bad news is that they can be hard to get rid of.

What are milia?

Milia are tiny cysts that contain keratin, a protein substance that is found in your hair and nails. No one knows for sure why they occur. Though they usually appear under the eyes, they can sometimes occur on the cheeks, nose, and foreheads, too.

How can you treat and prevent milia?

Keep in mind that there is usually no medical reason to have your milia removed. Often, they do eventually disappear on their own within a few months or years. You should seek treatment if they are located right on the edge of your eyelid and are causing irritation when you open and close your eye. Visit your optometrist; he or she can confirm that your white spots are milia, and not another kind of cyst, before removing them safely to relieve your eye irritation.

Milia can also be removed by dermatologists, either with topical medications or laser ablation. Your dermatologist may refer you to an eye doctor if your milia are too close to the eye.

There is no way to completely ensure that milia don't reappear, but you can do a few things to reduce your risk. Avoid sun exposure and wear sunscreen when you go outside for more than a few minutes. Also avoid skin resurfacing procedures, as milia often appear after these treatments.

What are some things to avoid when dealing with milia?

Never try to poke milia out of your skin or remove them with a pin. The skin near your eyes is very tender, and you could end up with a wound and possibly even an infection. You also risk stabbing yourself in the eye, and that's certainly not good! Never use vitamin A creams or acne medications on your milia, as you risk getting these medications in your eyes.

If you see little specks of white under your eyes, don't panic. You may wish to see your dermatologist to confirm that they are milia and not something more sinister, and you should seek treatment if they're on the rim of your eye. Otherwise, relax and wait for them to go away on their own. It might be a few months, but in the meantime, you can rest assured that they're completely harmless.