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Ectropion

Ectropion is the turning out of the eyelid so that the inner surface is exposed. It most often affects the lower eyelid.

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Eye

Causes

Ectropion is very often caused by the aging process. The connective (supporting) tissue of the eyelid becomes weak. This causes the lid to turn out so that the inside of the lower lid is no longer against the eyeball. It can also be caused by:

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

If you have ectropion, you will most likely have excess tearing. This happens because the eye gets dry, then makes more tears. The excess tears can't get into the tear drainage duct. Therefore, they build up inside the lower lid and then spill over the edge of the lid onto the cheek.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will make a diagnosis by doing an exam of the eyes and eyelids. Special tests are not needed most of the time.

Treatment

Artificial tears (a lubricant) may ease dryness and keep the cornea moist. Ointment may be helpful when the eye can't close all of the way, such as when you are asleep. Surgery is very often effective. When ectropion is related to aging or paralysis, the surgeon can tighten the muscles that hold the eyelids in place. If the condition is due to scarring of the skin, a skin graft or laser treatment may be used. The surgery is most often done in the office or at an outpatient surgery center. A medicine is used to numb the area (local anesthesia) before the surgery.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome is very often good with treatment.

Possible Complications

Corneal dryness and irritation may lead to:

Corneal ulcers can cause vision loss.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have symptoms of ectropion.

If you have ectropion, get emergency medical help if you have:

Prevention

Most cases cannot be prevented. You may want to use artificial tears or ointments to prevent injury to the cornea, especially if you are waiting for a more permanent treatment.

Related Information

Bell palsy
Conjunctivitis or pink eye
Corneal injury
Corneal ulcers and infections

References

Cioffi GA, Liebmann JM. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 395.

Maamari RN, Couch SM. Ectropion. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 12.6.

Nicoli F, Orfaniotis G, Ciudad P, et al. Correction of cicatricial ectropion using non-ablative fractional laser resurfacing. Lasers Med Sci. 2019;34(1):79-84. PMID: 30056585 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30056585/.

Olitsky SE, Marsh JM. Abnormalities of the lids. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 642.

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Review Date: 8/18/2020  

Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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