Problems with the eyelids, particularly the lower one, are quite common in older people.
The muscles and tissues around the eyelid may become weaker, resulting in the eyelid folding inwards, known as entropion, or drooping outwards (ectropion).
The main symptoms caused by entropion are due to the eyelashes rubbing against the surface of the eye (cornea). This can cause irritation and ulcers on the cornea. Conjunctivitis, inflammation of the surface membrane covering the eye, will often be present. Entropion may also occur as a result of scarring from recurrent infections in the area.
In ectropion, which occurs more often than entropion, the most common problem is tears running down the face on the affected side. This is due to the fact that the tiny hole in the lower lid that drains tears (the punctum) is displaced.
People with ectropion also suffer from irritation and inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is more exposed.
Apart from the normal ageing process, both ectropion and entropion can occur as a result of other things such as strokes or conditions that lead to eyelid scarring. The problems are occasionally, but rarely, present at birth.
Treatment for both conditions can include artificial tears, lubricating eye ointment or a protective eye shield worn at night. The definitive treatment for both problems is a small operation aimed at restoring the eyelid to its proper position.
Last Reviewed: 28/02/2013
1. Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. Entropion and ectropion (updated Aug 2012). http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/eye_disorders/eyelid_and_lacrimal_disorders/entropion_and_ectropion.html (accessed Mar 2013).
2. MayoClinic.com. Entropion (updated 22 Jan 2013). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/entropion/DS01094 (accessed Mar 2013).
3. MayoClinic.com. Ectropion (updated 19 Jan 2013). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ectropion/DS01093 (accessed Mar 2013).
Dry eyes and irritation
Dry eye includes dry or watery eyes and eye irritation. Dry eye occurs in people who produce fewer or lower quality tears. Find out what products are available for dry eyes and eye irritation.
A major cause of eye problems is allergic, bacterial or viral conjunctivitis (inflammation of the 'wet' surfaces of the eye). Find out what products are available for conjunctivitis.
Sjögren’s syndrome - also known as Sjogren syndrome - is a chronic (ongoing) disease that typically results in symptoms of dry eyes and dry mouth. It is caused by problems with the immune system.
Eyelid and eyelash problems
Common eye problems include inflammation and infection of the eyelids and eyelashes, also called blepharitis and styes.
Eyes in the sun
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage the eyes, especially in Australia. Problems include sunburn to the cornea, surfer's eye (pterygium), and cataracts.