General information about Ectropion

Patient Leaflets Team

  • Reference Number: HEY-957/2017
  • Departments: Ophthalmology Department


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your condition.  Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet.  It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and your doctor, but may act as a starting point for discussion.   If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team caring for you.

What is an ectropion?

An ectropion is a condition of the eye in which the eyelid turns outwards from and no longer touches the eye. This exposes the inner moist mucous membrane lining of the eyelid, causing the inner eyelid and sometimes the lower part of the eye to become dry and sore. 

Commonly it is the lower lid that is affected. Ectropion mainly affects older people in whom the muscles in the eyelid have become weak.  An ectropion may also develop in some people with weak facial muscles caused by a condition such as bells palsy.  An ectropion may also develop as a result of scarring following burns, injuries to the eye lids or a skin growth, all of which have the effect of pulling down the eyelid.

What are the symptoms of ectropion?

You may suffer from any of the symptoms below:

  • Red and dry sore eye lid lining
  • Drying of the cornea (surface of the clear front surface of the eye)
  • Irritation to the eyelid and eye
  • Excessively watery eyes because the tears cannot drain properly from the eye down the nose the tears spill down the cheek
  • Crusty eyelid skin especially around the eye lashes due to the tears and mucous drying around the eyelids and facial skin.
  • Infection of the eye and eyelids due to the exposed eye surfaces.

Why do I need treatment for an Ectropion?

The usual treatment for Ectropion is an operation to correct the position of the eyelid by tightening the skin and eyelid muscles. The operation is done using local anaesthetic and takes 20 – 30 minutes depending on the type of procedure needed. The operation is usually successful and prevents further damage to the eye caused by drying. The best results are obtained if the condition has not become too severe.

There are several types of surgical procedure to correct an Ectropion the surgeon will advise you on which is the most appropriate for your eye.  If the Ectropion is due to another cause such as nerve palsy or skin growths, then another treatment may be required and may be carried out before the surgery or at the same time. This will be discussed with you before any surgery is performed.

While you are waiting for the operation you may be asked to use some lubricating eye drops to protect the cornea and relive some of the discomfort.

Can there be any complications or risks?

There is the slight risk of bleeding and / or infection of the wound.  Any other risks which relate to your condition being treated will be discussed with you before the operation.

How do I prepare for the operation

Please read the information leaflet.  Share the information it contains with your partner and family (if you wish) so that they can be of help and support.  There may be information they need to know, especially if they are taking care of you following this examination.  Further information relating to what to expect when attending for lid surgery is available in the leaflet called Minor eyelid surgery.

What will happen?

Upon Arrival

You will be asked to arrive at the Eye Hospital at a specific time for your surgery; this time will have been included within your appointment letter. When you arrive you will be directed to the Day Case Unit within the Eye Hospital.

Day Case Unit

Please inform the doctor or nurse practitioner if you have ever experienced a bad reaction to any anaesthetic or numbing medicine before, for example when having dental treatment.  Please tell us about any tablets and medicines that you have taken in the last few weeks.  In particular, we need to know about any medication such as aspirin, warfarin, or blood pressure tablets.

Priority of patients seen

We ask you to arrive at a specific time, however please be prepared to wait up to 4 hours for your procedure to commence.  This is due to the departments need to prioritise our patients for the morning or afternoon surgeries.

What happens afterwards?

  • Your eye will be covered with an eye pad which will impair your vision and because of this you must not drive following the operation.  Therefore it is advisable that a friend or a relative is asked to take you home.
  • The period that your eye will be covered will depend on the type of surgery that you have undergone.  This period may be only a few hours or perhaps overnight but you will be advised about this after your surgery.
  • Once the local anaesthetic has worn off, you may experience some discomfort but this usually settles down if pain relief such as what you normally take for a headaches is taken.
  • Many of the operations require stitches and these are generally the type that dissolve and do not require removal.  There may be occasions in which your stitches have to be removed and if this is the case a follow up appointment will be arranged for you, before you leave the Eye Hospital, to return for a check-up.
  • After the surgery you will be advised on how to clean around your eye and when to use any eye treatments which might be prescribed, such as antibiotics ointment or drops.
  • When you remove the eye pad it is normal for it to be discoloured with blood.  You should gently bathe the eyelids with warm boiled water to remove any discharge.  It is important that you do not rub your eye as you may cause some bleeding or the stitches to come loose.
  • You will be given an appointment to return to the eye clinic for the stitches to be removed and check on the eye to make sure it is healing up as expected

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact the Ophthalmology Department on tel no: (01482) 608788

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

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