Ectropion is where the lower eyelid droops away from the eye and turns outwards. The degree of droopiness can range from mild to severe.

Ectropion mainly affects the lower eyelid and can occur in one or both eyes.

The drooping eyelid can disrupt the normal production of tears, which causes symptoms such as:

  • redness and irritation of the eye
  • excessive tear production, which can lead to a very watery eye
  • excessive dryness, which can cause the eye to feel gritty and sandy

Read more about the symptoms of ectropion.

Entropion is where the eyelid rolls inwards. It usually affects the lower lids, but can also affect the upper lids.

Read more about entropion and other eyelid problems.

What causes ectropion?

In most cases, ectropion is age-related. As you get older, the ligament (tough band of tissue) at the outer corner of your eye, which supports the lower eyelid, can weaken. Over time, the muscle of the lower eyelid can also become slack.

Ectropion can also be the result of temporary damage to the facial nerves that are used to control the eyelid (known as Bell's palsy), or damage to the eyelids caused by burns or another injury.

Read more about the causes of ectropion.

When to visit your GP

Visit your GP if you think you have ectropion. It’s usually straightforward to treat using ointment or eye drops (see below).

Your GP or ophthalmologist (a specialist in diagnosing and treating eye conditions) will be able to diagnose ectropion by examining your eye. Pulling the eyelid down to see how quickly it returns is a way of assessing whether the ligaments are weak.

Treating ectropion

If you have mild ectropion you may not need treatment. Eye drops or ointment may be recommended to reduce any inflammation in your lower eye lid and help keep your eye lubricated.

Sometimes, a minor operation is needed to correct the position of the eyelid. Most people are able to leave hospital on the day they have surgery.

The procedure involves removing a small section of the ligament that connects your eyelid to your skull, which makes it tighter so that it supports your eyelid better.

Read more about how ectropion is treated.

Complications of ectropion

Ectropion does not often lead to complications because it’s usually identified and treated at an early stage.

However, if your symptoms are severe and they’re not treated, it’s possible that you could develop further problems such as an eye infection or corneal ulcer (a sore on the eye’s surface), which could affect your vision.

Ectropion affects the lower eyelid which droops and turns outwards 

Who is affected by ectropion?

Ectropion is common in older people. It's estimated that 1 in 14 people who are 60-69 years of age will develop the condition. This increases to 1 in 6 people over 80 years of age.

Eye health tips for over-60s

How to keep your eyes healthy as you get older, with regular eye tests, prescription lenses and self-help measures

Page last reviewed: 20/08/2013

Next review due: 20/08/2015