Ectropion: A cause of sagging of the lower eyelid

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Ectropion: A cause of sagging of the lower eyelid

Question

What causes ectropion?

Leigh
London

Answer

Ectropion is the medical term used to describe sagging and turning out of the lower eyelids and eyelashes. As a result, your eyelids don't close or function properly.

Normally when you blink, your eyelids move tears across the surface of your eye to the little openings — called puncta — at the inner part of your eyelids. These tears then drain through the puncta into the nose. With ectropion, your eyelids aren't flush against the surface of your eye, so they can't move tears to the puncta as effectively as they should. Tears pool in the corners of your eyes and instead of lubricating your eyes, they flow over your lid onto your cheek.

Also, because your eyelids are turned out, they don't properly protect your eyes. As a result, the inside of your eyelids and surface of your eyes are exposed to air and can become dry, irritated and inflamed. Rubbing your eyes in an attempt to relieve symptoms can lead to further irritation, mucous discharge and encrusted eyelids.

Causes of ectropion include:

  • Age-related relaxing of muscles and tendons in the eyelid
  • Facial nerve palsy
  • Scar tissue in the eyelid caused by burns, tumors, radiation therapy, or previous eyelid or facial surgery

Ectropion may also be associated with an underlying medical condition, such as atopic dermatitis or lupus.

Common signs and symptoms of ectropion include:

  • Noticeable sagging of the lower eyelid
  • Increased tearing of the eye
  • A sensation of dryness and irritation
  • Eyelid redness, especially near the lashes

Treatment may include:

  • Artificial tears and lubricating ointments
  • A protective eye shield worn at night to prevent drying
  • Surgery to repair the involved muscles and tendons of the eyelid

If untreated, ectropion can lead to eye infection, cornea damage and impaired vision.

Ectropion

Photo of ectropion

In ectropion, the lower eyelid turns out to expose its inner surface. This causes normal tears to flow out of the eye instead of providing lubrication for the eye.

Last Updated: 07/24/2006
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