Ectropion: Definition, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Ectropion is a condition that affects your eyelids - part of the eyelid flips outward, exposing the inner eyelid and the eye itself. Read this lesson to learn why this happens, what the symptoms are, and how to treat it.

What is Ectropion?

Have you ever noticed an elderly person with abnormal eyelids? In fact, it looks like part of their lower eyelid is flipped inside out. This is a condition called ectropion, and it commonly affects older individuals. Cases of ectropion can be minor or major. Minor cases only involve a segment of the eyelid sagging down and flipping outward, whereas major cases can involve the entire lower eyelid or both the upper and lower eyelids.

This individual has ectropion in both eyes, as evident by the redness of each lower eyelid.

Causes of Ectropion

What would cause your eyelid to sag away from your eye like this? Sometimes the answer is as simple as muscle weakness. As you age, your muscles and tendons lose their elasticity, causing various parts to begin sagging. Your eyelids are no exception. They are positioned by muscles and corresponding tendons, and when they lose elasticity they can droop. Another cause of ectropion is facial paralysis, which can develop as a result of other diseases or conditions. Skin conditions or growths can cause the skin to stretch away from the underlying muscle or tissues too, and this would also cause the eyelid to eventually sag a little. Sometimes, the condition is present at birth, and sometimes, it develops after the use of certain medications (like eye drops) or after surgery on or around the eyes.

Symptoms of Ectropion

The primary problem with ectropion is that your eyelid isn't washing away debris or wetting your eye. When you blink, the eyelids distribute tears over your eye, and this keeps them free of debris and functioning properly. Without this lubrication, the eyes can become dry and irritated. Symptoms of ectropion may include excessive dryness or excessive tearing as your body tries to compensate for dryness.

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