The symptoms of entropion result from the friction of your eyelashes and outer eyelid against the surface of your eye. You may have signs and symptoms such as:
- The feeling that there's something in your eye
- Redness of the white part of your eye
- Eye irritation or pain
- Sensitivity to light and wind
- Watery eyes (excessive tearing)
- Mucous discharge and eyelid crusting
- Decreased vision
When to seek medical advice
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, make an appointment to see your doctor for an evaluation. If you leave entropion untreated for too long, it can cause permanent damage to your eye. Be sure to use artificial tears and eye-moisturizing ointments to protect your eye before your appointment.
If you know that you have entropion, be alert for symptoms of cornea exposure or ulcers, including rapidly increasing redness, pain, light sensitivity or decreasing vision. If you experience any of these vision-threatening signs and symptoms, seek immediate care in an ophthalmologist's office or an emergency room.
Entropion can have several different causes, such as:
- Muscle weakness. As you age, the muscles under your eyes tend to get weaker and the tendons also may relax. If muscles and tendons become weak and relaxed, entropion can develop.
- Scars or previous surgeries. Scarred skin from chemical burns, trauma or surgery can distort the normal curve of the eyelid, causing entropion.
- Eye infection. Although rare in North America, an eye infection called trachoma is still common in North Africa and South Asia. Trachoma can cause scarring of the inner eyelid, leading to entropion and even blindness from the corneal complications.
- Inflammation or infection. An eyelid problem called spastic entropion can result from infection or inflammation.
- Developmental complication. Very rarely, entropion is present at birth (congenital). More often, a baby with turned-in eyelashes at birth has an extra fold of skin on the eyelid, called epiblepharon.
Certain factors increase your risk of developing entropion:
- Age. The most common cause of entropion is relaxing muscle tissue associated with aging. The older you are, the greater your chances of developing the condition.
- Previous burns. If you've had a burn 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 the infection are more likely to develop entropion.
The most serious complication associated with entropion is corneal irritation and damage. Because your eyelashes and eyelid are constantly rubbing the cornea, it's more susceptible to corneal breakdown and ulcers, which can cause permanent loss of vision.
Eyedrops and ointments can help to protect your cornea and prevent damage until you have surgery to correct entropion.
Generally, entropion isn't preventable.
If your eyes become red and irritated after you visit an area affected by trachoma infection, such as North Africa or South Asia, seek treatment immediately. Untreated trachoma infection can scar the inner eyelids, causing entropion and vision loss.