What is an ectropion?
Ectropion is seen less frequently than entropion but remains a common eyelid problem. It leads to the eyelid turning away from the eye with the exposed inner lining of the eyelid becoming red and sore. The eye often waters as the tear duct no longer sits up against the front of the eye where it should collect the tears. Most cases of ectropion are caused by age related laxity within the eyelid tissues. This can be corrected with a local anaesthetic operation. Some cases of ectropion are made much worse by tightness in the skin of the lower eyelid due to eczema or chronic sun exposure. In these cases, it may be necessary to place a skin graft in the lower lid as part of the corrective surgery. Being examined by an experienced oculoplastic surgeon will ensure that the correct operation is chosen for you.
What are the symptoms of ectropion?
In ectropion, the lower eyelid turns outwards away from the eye. This causes a number of symptoms including excessive watering, as the tears are not caught and drained away by the eyelid and tear duct. Ectropion can also cause excessive dryness of the lower part of the eye, irritation, burning and redness due to the lower portion of the eye being exposed. Over time, a chronic conjunctivitis can appear. In more severe or longstanding cases, ectropion can cause you to feel pain, the whites of your eye may become increasingly red, you may develop a sensitivity to bright light and you may experience vision problems.
What causes ectropion?
There are a number of causes of ectropion but the primary cause is due to muscle weakness that occurs as part of the normal ageing process. Other causes, such as stroke, Bell’s palsy, skin cancer, injury or other eyelid surgery, can also cause ectropion to occur.
What are the treatments for ectropion?
In mild cases of ectropion, comfort and relief may be provided by eyedrops in the form of artificial tears. The eyelid can also be taped using transparent skin tape to lift the lower lid and hold it in place for short term relief. These methods can also be utilised whilst awaiting treatment. You should ask your consultant for recommendations and instructions first.
In most cases, ectropion can be treated by a local anaesthetic operation to tighten and reposition the lid. This leaves your eyelid in a much better position and improves your symptoms.
If left untreated, long term irritation, excessive dryness and exposure of the front part of your eye can lead to infection, corneal abrasions or corneal ulcers. Corneal ulcers can be extremely painful and may cause damage to your eyesight even if they completely heal.