Many people do not enjoy clear eyesight for most of their lives. And many others are even more unfortunate for being born with certain eye defects. We see a lot of people, regardless of age, wearing some form of corrective lenses (eyeglasses or contact lenses), obviously to improve their vision.
As their structure is marked with fragility and complexity, our eyes are liable to incur a variety of injuries, diseases and disorders, some of which may be very serious. Two of the most common eye diseases involve the eyelids and are thus generally referred to as eyelid disorders. These are ectropion and entropion. These two eyelid disorders, interestingly, have contrasting characteristics.
In ectropion, the eyelid rolls outward, exposing part of its lining membrane. The unshielded membrane is often red and swollen. In a case of ectropion in which the lower eyelid is involved, there is a flowing over of tears. Several conditions can lead to ectropion. For instance, ectropion is a common complication of facial paralysis, as that caused by Bell’s palsy (an inflammation of the facial nerve). In elderly people, ectropion may be the simple outcome of a general relaxation of the tissues. The contraction of scars following injuries to the face is another possible cause of ectropion.
In contrast, entropion is characterized by the inward rolling of the edge of the eyelid and the eyelashes. The coarse edges of the eyelid or the eyelashes cause inflammation or soreness of the cornea. This is often followed by an overflow of tears, sensitivity to light, and possible ulceration of the cornea. Injuries to the eyelid or such other eye disease (example, trachoma – a bacterial conjunctivitis) in which the development of scars pulls the tissues out of shape may precede entropion. In the case of entropion involving the lower eyelid, spasm of the muscle is the likely cause.
In an elderly person with ectropion, placing the involved eyelid in normal position at bedtime and retaining it so during the night by the use of a bandage may help. Other cases of ectropion may call for the performance of plastic surgery to loosen the tight scar of a prior injury or shorten the margin of the involved eyelid.
For entropion, there are two measures that can be taken to temporarily prevent the eyelid from rolling inward. One is with the use of an adhesive plaster splint passing from the eyelid’s margin to the cheek. The other is by means of painting the skin of the eyelid with collodion (a viscid solution of pyroxylin used as a coating for wounds) to make the eyelid stiff. But the only really satisfactory treatment for entropion requires the reshaping of the involved eyelid so that the eyelashes are directed forward. An eye surgeon knows exactly what to do in this case.