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Read answers from our experts: Living Well | Diet & Fitness | Mental Health | Conditions
updated September 30, 2010


Filed under: Boomer's Health
Entropion (en-TROH-pe-on) is a condition in which your eyelid turns inward so that your eyelashes and skin rub against the eye surface, causing irritation and discomfort. When you have entropion, your eyelid may be turned in all the time, or it may only turn inward when you blink forcibly or squeeze your eyelids shut tightly. Entropion occurs most often in older adults, and it typically affects only your lower eyelid.

Artificial tears and lubricating ointments can help relieve symptoms of entropion, but you'll likely need surgery to correct it. Left untreated, entropion can cause damage to the clear part of your eye (cornea), which can lead to vision loss.

©1998-2013 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Terms of use.
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The symptoms of entropion result from the friction of your eyelashes and outer eyelid against the surface of your eye. Signs and symptoms include:

  • The feeling that there's something in your eye
  • Redness of the white part of your eye
  • Eye irritation or pain
  • Sensitivity to light and wind
  • Watery eyes (excessive tearing)
  • Mucous discharge and eyelid crusting
  • Decreased vision

When to seek medical advice
If you feel like you constantly have something in your eye or you notice that some of your eyelashes seem to be turning in toward your eye, make an appointment to see your doctor for an evaluation. If you leave entropion untreated for too long, it can cause permanent damage to your eye, so be sure to use artificial tears and eye-moisturizing ointments to protect your eye in the meantime.

If you know that you have entropion, be alert for symptoms of cornea exposure or ulcers, including rapidly increasing redness, pain, light sensitivity or decreasing vision. If you experience any of these vision-threatening signs and symptoms, seek immediate care in an emergency room.

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Entropion can have several different causes, including:

  • Muscle weakness. As you age, the muscles under your eyes tend to get weaker and the tendons also may relax. If muscles and tendons get weak and relaxed enough, entropion can develop.
  • Scars or previous surgeries. Scarred skin from chemical burns, trauma, surgery or radiation to your face can distort the normal curve of the eyelid, causing entropion.
  • Skin diseases or infections. Previous skin infections or skin diseases, such as ocular herpes, can result in entropion. Although rare in North America, an eye infection called trachoma is still common in North Africa and South Asia. Trachoma can cause scarring of the inner eyelid, leading to entropion and even blindness from the corneal complications.
  • Eye surgery. An eyelid problem called spastic entropion affects some people temporarily after eye surgery, usually lasting only until the eye is completely healed. In some cases, entropion persists after healing is complete. Spastic entropion can also result from infection, inflammation or trauma.
  • Abnormal fetal development. Very rarely, entropion is present at birth (congenital). More often, a baby with turned-in eyelashes at birth has an extra fold of skin on the eyelid, called epiblepharon.

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Certain factors increase your risk of developing entropion:

  • Age. The most common cause of entropion is relaxing muscle tissue associated with aging. The older you are, the greater your chances of developing the condition.
  • Previous burns. If you've had a burn on your face, the resulting scar tissue may put you at higher risk of developing entropion.
  • Trachoma infection. Because trachoma can scar the inner eyelids, people who have had the infection are more likely to develop entropion.

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The most serious complication associated with entropion is corneal irritation and damage. Because your eyelashes and eyelid are constantly rubbing the cornea, it is more susceptible to corneal breakdown and ulcers, which can cause permanent loss of vision. Lubricating eyedrops and ointments can help to protect your cornea and prevent damage until you have surgery to correct entropion.

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If you have signs and symptoms of entropion, you're likely to start by seeing your primary care physician. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating eye disorders (ophthalmologist).

Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you're taking.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Preparing a list of questions can help make sure that you cover all of the points that are important to you. For entropion, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
  • Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
  • Can entropion damage my vision?
  • What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
  • What are the risks of surgery?
  • Are there any alternatives to surgery?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?

What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may make time for additional questions you may have. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Do you have any chronic medical conditions?
  • Have you had any previous eye surgery?
  • Have you had any other eye problems, such as an eye infection?
  • Are you taking any blood thinners?
  • Are you taking aspirin?

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Usually, entropion can be diagnosed with a routine eye exam and physical examination. Your doctor may pull on your eyelids during the exam, or ask you to close your eyes forcefully, in order to assess your eyelid's position on the eye, as well as its muscle tone and tightness.

If your entropion is caused by scar tissue or a previous surgery, your doctor will examine the surrounding tissue as well. Understanding how other conditions cause your entropion is important in choosing the correct treatment or surgical technique.

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Although treatments are available to relieve symptoms and protect your eye from damage, you'll likely need surgery to correct entropion. When active inflammation or infection causes the condition, your eyelid may return to its normal alignment as you treat the inflamed or infected eye. However, entropion often persists after the other condition has cleared up.

Temporary treatments
Short-term fixes can be useful if you can't tolerate surgery or you have to delay it. Effective temporary treatments include:

  • Skin tape. Special transparent skin tape can be applied to your eyelid to keep it from turning in. Place one end of the tape near your lower eyelashes, then pull down gently and attach the other end of the tape to your upper cheek. Ask your doctor to demonstrate proper technique and placement of the tape.
  • Stitches that turn the eyelid outward. This procedure can be done in your doctor's office with local anesthesia. After numbing the eye, your doctor places two to three stitches in specific locations along the affected eyelid. The stitches turn the eyelid outward, and resulting scar tissue keeps it in position even after the stitches are removed. There's a high likelihood that your eyelid will turn itself back inward within several months of the stitching, however, so it isn't a long-term solution.
  • OnabotulinumtoxinA (Botox). Small amounts of onabotulinumtoxinA injected in the lower eyelid can turn the eyelid out. You'll get a series of injections and the effects will last up to six months. This treatment can help if you have temporary spastic entropion immediately after another eye surgery, because the entropion will resolve itself before the effects of botulinum toxin wear off.

Entropion usually requires surgery. There are several different surgical techniques for entropion, depending on the cause and the condition of the surrounding tissue. Before the surgery, you'll receive a local anesthetic to numb your eyelids, and you may be lightly sedated with an oral or intravenous (IV) medication to help you feel more comfortable.

If your entropion is caused by muscle and ligament relaxation due to aging, your surgeon will likely remove a small part of your lower eyelid, which serves to tighten the tendons and muscles of the lid. You'll have a few stitches on the outside corner of your eye, or just below your lower eyelid.

If you have scar tissue or previous surgeries, the surgeon may need to use a skin graft, taken from your upper eyelid or behind your ear, to correct the entropion.

Following your surgery, you may wear an eye patch for 24 hours, and then use an antibiotic and steroid ointment on your eye several times a day for one week. You may also use cold compresses periodically to decrease bruising and swelling, as well as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) for pain. Avoid drugs containing aspirin, because they can increase the risk of bleeding.

At first your eyelid might feel uncomfortable, but as you heal, the soreness and irritation will diminish. Most people say that their symptoms are relieved almost immediately after surgery. You'll get your stitches removed about a week after your surgery. For at least a month following surgery, take care not to pull on your eyelid when applying eyedrops.

Although uncommon, bleeding or infection are possible risks of surgery. You'll likely experience temporary swelling, and your eyelids may be somewhat bruised after surgery.

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To relieve the symptoms of entropion until you have surgery, you can try:

  • Eye lubricants. Artificial tears and eye ointments help protect your cornea and keep it lubricated. Try applying eye ointment just before bed, and then wear an eye shield overnight to seal in the moisture.
  • Skin tape. Use skin tape under your eye to pull your eyelid down and temporarily turn your lower lid outward.

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Generally, entropion isn't preventable. However, if your eyes become red and irritated after you visit an area affected by trachoma infection, such as North Africa or South Asia, seek treatment immediately. Untreated trachoma infection can scar the inner eyelids, causing entropion and vision loss.

©1998-2013 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Terms of use.
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