Ectropion (ek-TROH-pee-on) is when your lower eyelid turns or
sags outward, away from your eye, exposing the surface of your inner eyelid.
This condition can cause eye dryness, excessive tearing, and
irritation. Ectropion may be due to several factors, including facial paralysis
and injury. The most common cause is muscle relaxation due to aging.
If you have symptoms of ectropion, you should seek medical
attention. Without treatment, ectropion can lead to serious problems with your
cornea and even blindness. Eye lubricants can help ease symptoms, but surgery
is usually necessary to achieve full correction. Most people who have the
surgery experience a positive outcome.
The primary cause of ectropion is the muscle weakness or tissue
relaxation that occurs as part of the normal aging process. Your risk of
developing ectropion increases with age. Other triggers include:
- skin cancer
- scar tissue from injuries or burns
- growths on the eyelid (either cancerous or
- birth defects (due to genetic disorders such as Down
- Bell’s palsy (a condition that damages the nerve
that controls facial muscles) or other types of facial paralysis
- prior surgery or radiation treatment of the
- rapid and significant weight loss
Are the Symptoms of Ectropion?
When you blink, your eyelids help distribute tears that protect
and lubricate your eyes. The tears drain into the tear ducts that are inside
your eyelids. When the lower lid turns outward, it affects the way tears drain.
This can result in a variety of symptoms, including:
- excessive tearing
- excessive dryness
- chronic conjunctivitis (inflammation also known
as “pink eye”)
If you have symptoms of ectropion, you need prompt medical care.
Delay in treating this condition can lead to serious complications. If you
experience any of the following symptoms, they should be immediately addressed
by your doctor:
- sudden sensitivity to light
- eye pain
- rapid increase in redness of eyes
- decreased vision
Are the Treatment Options for Ectropion?
While awaiting treatment, lubricating drops can provide relief
and protect your cornea from further damage. However, note that improper wiping
of your eyes can aggravate the problem. Always wipe from the outer eye up to
the nose, using an "up and in" motion.
Skin tape, an adhesive made specifically for the skin, may be
used to lift the lower lid and hold it in place to relieve some symptoms.
However, be sure to ask your doctor for instructions and recommendations first.
Stretching of Scar Tissue
If the problem is due to scar tissue, your doctor may recommend
scar tissue stretching. This involves steroid injections and scar tissue
massaging. However, this procedure doesn’t always work.
Most of the time, surgery is necessary. Surgery can occur during
a hospital stay, but it is usually done as an outpatient procedure under local
During the operation, the surgeon usually removes part of the
lower eyelid. This procedure requires stitches below the eyelid or on the
outside corner of your eye. In most cases, this surgery is quite effective and
resolves the problem.
If your ectropion is due to scar tissue, you may need a skin
graft (skin transplant). Your doctor will take skin from behind your ear or
from your upper eyelid and attach it to your lower lid.
If you previously had facial paralysis or a lot of scarring, it
may take multiple surgeries to get the best result and fully resolve the
You may need to wear a temporary eye patch after surgery. You may
also receive a steroid ointment and antibiotics to prevent infection.
Over-the-counter pain relievers and cold compresses can help with pain and
swelling. Some patients feel relief immediately, and others find relief within
days or a few weeks. Most patients have no further symptoms after treatment and
Are the Complications Associated with Ectropion?
Long-term irritation, excessive dryness, and exposure of the
cornea can lead to conjunctivitis, or infection of the eye. This can result in
infected pus or fluid around your eye and on your eyelashes, especially when
you wake up in the morning. Other complications may include:
- corneal abrasions (scratches on the cornea or
surface of the eye)
- corneal ulcers (sores on the cornea or surface
of the eye)
- impaired vision
- permanent blindness
Can I Prevent Ectropion?
Most of the time, it’s not possible to prevent the conditions
that lead to ectropion. However, seeking treatment early can help minimize
damage and avoid serious complications.