The eyelids have two primary functions: to protect the eye from damage and debris and to prevent tears from evaporating. Normally, the upper and lower eyelids close tightly over the eyeball, but two maladies, known as ectropion and entropion, can interfere with this, affecting patient comfort and ocular function. Here, Dr. Michael McCracken, who treats these conditions at his Denver practice, explains the two conditions.
Entropion is a malady in which the eyelid is inverted, or turns inward. This causes the eyelashes to rub against the eyeball, which is not only uncomfortable, but can also lead to ulcer formation and scarring of the cornea. Someone with entropion may feel like there is a foreign body in the eye; they may also have eye redness, watering or both. The eyes may be sensitive to light or wind, or discharge mucus.
Entropion is common among older adults, and often develops as the result of the eyelid tissues relaxing with age. It can also be caused by injury, inflammation or certain diseases.
Entropion is diagnosed after an examination and discussion of the symptoms. Artificial tears or eye ointments are typically used to ease discomfort. However, entropion should be surgically corrected to prevent permanent damage.
During entropion surgery, Dr. McCracken creates tiny incisions in the outer corner of the eye and inside of the eyelid, and modifies the eyelid muscles to restore the lid to its normal position. The surgery is generally well tolerated and has a short recovery period.
Ectropion is a condition in which the eyelid is everted, or turned outward, so the eyelids cannot meet fully when the eyes are closed. Tears cannot spread over the eyeball normally, so the eyes can feel gritty or painful. There may be mucus discharge or crusting from ectropion. The eyes may be red or water excessively.
Ectropion is usually the result of age-related tissue weakness, but it is also caused by trauma, scarring from previous eye surgeries, skin cancer or facial nerve paralysis from conditions like Bell’s palsy or stroke.
The condition is diagnosed after a thorough examination and discussion of symptoms. Artificial tears or lubricating ointment may be used to keep the eye moist and relieve irritation, but the ectropion should be treated surgically to preserve eyesight and prevent long-term damage to the eye.
During standard ectropion surgery, Dr. McCracken makes a tiny incision in the outer corner of the eye and rolls the eyelid inward. The operation is short and well tolerated. Recovery typically takes a few days to a week. More complex cases may require reducing downward pull on the eyelid by advancing cheek tissue up or adding skin to the lower lid.
Contact Dr. McCracken
For more information about entropion or ectropion, please contact McCracken Eye and Face Institute by calling (720) 851-6600 or via email.