Outward turning of the margin of the lower eyelid

  • More common in elderly people
  • Gender, genetics, and lifestyle are not significant factors

If the edge of the lower eyelid turns outwards and the eyelid hangs away from the eye, the exposed inner surface of the lid becomes dry and sore. This condition is known as ectropion and may stop tears from entering the nasolacrimal duct, which runs from the eye to the nose, causing the eye to water continuously. Since the eyelids cannot close fully, the transparent cornea at the front part of the eye is constantly exposed and may become damaged (see Corneal ulcer) or repeatedly infected. The condition most often occurs in elderly people as a result of weakness of the lower eyelid that may occur with increasing age. Both eyes are usually affected. Ectropion may also be caused by contraction of a scar on the eyelid or cheek or by facial palsy, in which the muscles around the eye (and other facial muscles on the affected side) are paralysed. In these cases, only one eye is usually involved.

What is the treatment?

If you think that you have ectropion, you should consult your doctor as soon as you can because treatment of the disorder is most successful when it is carried out early. Your doctor will probably recommend a straightforward surgical operation, performed under local anaesthesia, in which the skin and muscles around the eyelid are tightened. In severe cases, more complex plastic surgery may be necessary.


The lower eyelid of this eye has turned outwards (ectropion), exposing the inner surface and preventing drainage of tears.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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