Entropion (en-TROH-pee-on) is a condition in which your eyelid turns inward so that your eyelashes and skin rub against the eye surface. This causes irritation and discomfort.
When you have entropion, your eyelid may be turned in all the time or only when you blink hard or squeeze your eyelids shut. Entropion is more common in older adults, and it generally affects only the lower eyelid.
Artificial tears and lubricating ointments can help relieve symptoms of entropion. But usually surgery is needed to fully correct the condition. Left untreated, entropion can cause damage to the transparent covering in the front part of your eye (cornea), eye infections and vision loss.
The signs and symptoms of entropion result from the friction of your eyelashes and outer eyelid against the surface of your eye. You may experience:
- The feeling that something is in your eye
- Eye redness
- Eye irritation or pain
- Sensitivity to light and wind
- Watery eyes (excessive tearing)
- Mucous discharge and eyelid crusting
- Decreased vision
When to see a doctor
Seek immediate care if you have received a diagnosis of entropion and you experience:
- Rapidly increasing redness in your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Decreasing vision
These are signs and symptoms of cornea injury, which can harm your vision.
Make an appointment to see your doctor 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. If you leave entropion untreated for too long, it can cause permanent damage to your eye. Start using artificial tears and eye-moisturizing ointments to protect your eye before your appointment.
Entropion can be caused by:
- Muscle weakness. As you age, the muscles under your eyes tend to weaken, and the tendons stretch out. This is the most common cause of entropion.
- Scars or previous surgeries. Skin scarred by chemical burns, trauma or surgery can distort the normal curve of the eyelid.
- Eye infection. An eye infection called trachoma is common in many developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Pacific Islands. It can cause scarring of the inner eyelid, leading to entropion and even blindness.
- Inflammation. An irritation of the eye caused from dryness or inflammation can lead to an effort to relieve the symptoms by rubbing the eyelids or squeezing them shut. This can lead to a spasm of the eyelid muscles and a rolling of the edge of the lid inward against the cornea (spastic entropion).
- Developmental complication. When entropion is present at birth (congenital), it may be caused by an extra fold of skin on the eyelid that causes turned-in eyelashes.
Factors that increase your risk of developing entropion include:
- Age. The older you are, the greater your chances of developing the condition.
- Previous burns or trauma. If you've had a burn or other injury 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 this infection are more likely to develop entropion.
Corneal irritation and injury are the most serious complications related to entropion because they can lead to permanent vision loss.
Generally, entropion isn't preventable. You may be able to prevent the type caused by trachoma infection. If your eyes become red and irritated after you visit an area where trachoma infection is common, seek evaluation and treatment immediately.