in Everett, WA
What is Ectropion?
Ectropion is a medical condition in which the lower eyelid is turned outward so that the inner surface of the lid is exposed. The lower lid often has an inflamed and sagging appearance. Ectropion may result in dryness, irritation, and tearing. The most common cause of ectropion is aging, which weakens the connective tissue of the eyelid and allows it to turn outwards. Lubricating drops may provide temporary relief of dry eye symptoms. Surgery is usually needed in order to tighten the eyelid muscles.
What causes ectropion?
- Muscle and connective tissue weakness
- Eyelid growths
- Previous eyelid surgery
- Facial scarring from burns or trauma
- Excessive sun exposure
- Cosmetic laser skin resurfacing
- Facial paralysis due to Bell’s palsy
- Radiation of the eyelid to treat cancer
- Use of certain eye drops for glaucoma
Who is at greater risk for developing ectropion?
Certain factors increase the chances a person could develop ectropion. These include:
- Age — The most common cause of ectropion is the weakening of the muscle tissue that supports the eyelids. This is a part of normal aging.
- Previous eye surgeries — People who have had blepharoplasty are at higher risk for developing ectropion.
- Previous cancer, burns, or trauma — If you’ve had skin cancer on your face, burns, or other trauma, this elevates your chances of developing ectropion.
What are the symptoms of ectropion?
Ectropion inhibits the proper drainage of tears in the eye. Because of this, it causes eye irritation and redness, excessive tearing, pain, sensitivity to light, inflammation, and a gritty feeling in the eyes. These can be addressed with eye drops, but this is a temporary solution. Ectropion usually requires surgery to tighten the lower eyelid.
What complications can develop with ectropion?
Because ectropion exposes both the inside of the lower eyelid and the cornea, serious complications can result from this condition if left untreated. These include corneal abrasions, corneal ulcers, and recurrent eye infections. All of these can damage the eye permanently over time.
How is ectropion surgery performed?
The approach your Physicians Eye Clinic ophthalmologist will use to repair your ectropion can vary depending upon the cause:
- Ectropion caused by muscle and ligament relaxation due to aging. Your surgeon will likely remove a small part of your lower eyelid at the outer edge. When the lid is stitched back together, the tendons and muscles of the lid will be tightened. This will change the orientation of the sagging tissues and enable the lid to rest properly on the eye.
- Ectropion caused by scar tissue from injury or previous surgery. In cases of prior surgery or trauma, scar tissue is often the problem. For these cases, your Physicians’ Eye Clinic surgeon may need to use a skin graft to help support the lower eyelid. This tissue can be taken from your upper eyelid or from behind your ear.
After ectropion repair surgery what will my recovery be like?
After Dr. Jones or Dr. Lueth corrects your lower eyelid, your eye will be covered with an eye patch. You’ll wear this for a full 24 hours after your surgery. Since your lower eyelid has been loose, after it is repaired it will feel tighter than normal for a few days. Part of this is adapting to tighter muscle tissue and a tighter, more normal, eyelid. Part of this is the repaired eyelid needing to calm and relax just a bit.
For the first week, we prescribe an antibiotic and steroid ointment that you will use. Your stitches will come out after about one week. You’ll have some bruising and swelling that can last for about two weeks. The diligent use of a cold compress will help with this. Generally, this is a very successful surgery and recovery is not that difficult.
Are there risks involved with ectropion surgery?
These are relatively simple, straightforward procedures but they are surgery, so they have all the risks inherent with any surgery: reaction to anesthesia, excessive bleeding, infection, poor incision healing, and the like. These are rare thanks to the board-certified expertise and experience of our ophthalmologists.
The main side effect or complication is that the surgery won’t entirely correct the problem, and you may have to have a follow-up procedure. This is very rare, however.