Many things can cause the eyes to look like they have wrinkles, from ageing to dryness and even lack of sleep – the list goes on. However, for some people, the skin around their eyeballs starts to sag or droop downward due to a condition called conjunctivochalasis.
The first step to diagnosing this condition is knowing how to recognize it. However, before diving into the symptoms of conjunctivochalasis, how it’s diagnosed, and the treatment options available, it’s essential to understand just what it is.
What is Conjunctivochalasis?
Conjunctivochalasis is a condition that is characterized by drooping or sagging of the conjunctiva, which may lead to eyelid wrinkling. The conjunctiva is the tissue found on the surface of the eyeball, and people with conjunctivochalasis will have a thin layer of skin beneath their lower eyelids. As the skin droops, it can cover a person’s cornea and lead to vision impairment.
The best way for doctors to diagnose conjunctivochalasis is by looking at the lower eyelid and checking for signs of trauma on the surface area (i.e., scratches).
Can Conjunctivochalasis Go Away On Its Own?
If a person has conjunctivochalasis, it is unlikely that the condition will go away on its own.
Is Conjunctivochalasis Dangerous?
Conjunctivochalasis is a harmless but potentially debilitating type of eye disorder. If left untreated, conjunctivochalasis can lead to corneal ulcers and pain in the area around the eyes which may worsen over time. Those who are already living with conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure should be careful about this because their symptoms could worsen if they don’t get treatment for the underlying health issue too.
What Can Cause Conjunctivochalasis?
Conjunctivochalasis is not caused by any one particular thing, but it’s believed that the natural ageing process is the primary cause. As a person ages, the conjunctiva begins to thin out and stretch.
Another common cause of conjunctivochalasis is prolonged exposure to contact lenses. This can happen when someone has been wearing the same type of contact lens for many years without taking breaks from them, or if they have been misusing daily disposable contacts by, for instance, never taking them out while they sleep.
Another possible cause of conjunctivochalasis is thyroid dysfunction. People who have an underactive thyroid or go through a period where their thyroid produces too many hormones may experience this condition. Conjunctivochalasis is also seen in approximately 88% of individuals with autoimmune thyroid diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Some people also believe that the condition can be caused by blepharitis, which causes inflammation of the eyelids and lashes. Blepharitis itself isn’t always harmful, but it’s believed to sometimes lead to conjunctivochalasis in cases where the person has a related autoimmune disease.
Several medications may cause conjunctivochalasis. These include certain antibiotics, anti-malarial drugs, and antiviral treatments for HIV/AIDS.
Other possible causes can be excessive dryness in the eye or an allergic reaction to something a person is exposed to daily, such as make-up, hair dye, or synthetic fabrics.
If someone thinks they have conjunctivochalasis, it’s highly recommended that they see their ophthalmologist as soon as possible so it can be diagnosed properly. When trying to determine what’s causing conjunctivochalasis, there are several factors the ophthalmologist will consider, including:
- Age of the patient
- Whether or not they’ve been wearing contact lenses (and for how long)
- Their medical history
- Current medications
The doctor may also want to rule out other causes first before making a final diagnosis. This could include glaucoma, dry eye syndrome, allergies/hay fever or other more serious conditions such as cancerous tumours around the eyelid.
What to Expect from a Visit to the Ophthalmologist
If an eye doctor believes that someone may have conjunctivochalasis, then they’ll be asked to come into the office so the doctor can run a variety of tests. These tests are necessary for not only diagnosing conjunctivochalasis but to also rule out any other possibilities.
These tests will include something called a slit lamp examination, in which a light is shined into the eyes while moving them around to different angles in order to detect any abnormalities in their appearance.
Additionally, the doctor will want to take some photographs to help them make an accurate diagnosis. They may also ask questions about allergies or other medical conditions which could contribute to conjunctivochalasis development.
After this visit, the ophthalmologist should know exactly what’s causing the symptoms, how severe it is, and what treatment options are available.
Most Common Symptoms of Conjunctivochalasis
The symptoms of conjunctivochalasis are easy to spot, but the first signs may not be as noticeable or bothersome because it is a gradual process.
At first, a person might notice that their eyesight seems more blurry than usual and that blinking has become difficult. If they take off their contact lenses when this happens, they’ll find that it’s much easier to open and close their eyelids.
Another symptom can include redness around the eyelids. As time goes on, however, conjunctivochalasis will begin causing wrinkles near the edge of the eyelids, and the loose skin will start to look taut.
Some other common symptoms associated with conjuntivochalasis include:
1. Eye Irritation, Burning, and General Discomfort
Conjunctivochalasis can cause the eyes to become irritated and burn. Some patients state that they feel as if a foreign body is stuck in their eye. This sometimes leads patients to rub at their eyes, trying to dislodge anything that may be stuck – resulting in further irritation.
2. Blurry Vision
Blurry vision is another symptom that conjunctivochalasis can cause. The loose skin on the eyelids can be very irritating to the eyes, and any contact with it, even when blinking or looking away from a bright light source, will exacerbate blurry vision problem.
3. Dry Eyes
Some people with conjunctivochalasis may experience a feeling of excessive dryness in their eyes, which will often lead to an incredibly itchy sensation. This can be caused by loose skin rubbing against the eye, causing further irritation.
A lack of blinking is another symptom that conjunctivochalasis sufferers are likely to report due to the excess eyelid skin interfering with their blink reflexes when they sleep at night or become distracted during the day.
4. Watery Eyes
Occasionally, conjunctivochalasis sufferers will also report having watery eyes. This can result from the extra skin rubbing against the eye and causing it to produce more tears in an attempt to compensate for the dryness caused by this irritation.
By the time a person notice these symptoms, conjunctivochalasis may have been progressing for a while. The progression is gradual, so it may not be as noticeable or bothersome at first.
If a person notices any redness around either one or both eyes after waking up in the morning, has sudden trouble reading without glasses, experiences significant pain while wearing contact lenses, or suffer from frequent headaches, they should visit their eye care professional and let them know.
Treatment Options for Conjunctivochalasis
No matter what stage of development the condition may be at, an eye doctor with expertise in treating conjunctival problems should be consulted. They’ll be able to show how to recognize conjunctivochalasis and determine if treatment options like surgery might be necessary immediately to stop the progression.
There are a few treatments available which the ophthalmologist will discuss depending on their findings and what they believe is best for the condition. What’s important to understand is that most treatment options involve maintaining the condition, not eliminating it.
Use Lubricating Eye Drops
For those suffering from dry eyes due to conjunctivochalasis, lubricating eye drops could prove an effective treatment method. These eye drops can help prevent any buildup of mucous that could result in bacterial infections and protect the cornea from damage.
But it’s essential to use them sparingly, as too much lubrication will just make matters worse and hinder the healing process. This is also why we recommend consulting an ophthalmologist for advice on which type of dry eye relief should be used, when to apply it, and how often.
In severe cases where traditional methods have failed to relieve problems associated with conjunctivochalasis, conjunctivochalasis surgery may be suggested. This procedure is usually conducted by an ophthalmologist and can be done under local or general anesthesia.
The conjunctivochalasis surgery removes the excess skin that’s causing the dryness, redness, irritation, and pain. The ophthalmologist will use a special tool called a corneal spatula to remove the extra tissue from around the eyelid margin.
Since itchy and burning eyes are some of the most common symptoms associated with conjunctivochalasis, topical antihistamines can prove to be an effective treatment to help manage these rather annoying symptoms.
Topical antihistamines can be applied directly to the eyes, providing relief after only a few hours. In addition, they are available over the counter and do not require an expensive prescription or medical consultation as is often required with other treatments for conjunctivochalasis. These simple medications work by blocking histamine production, which reduces swelling and inflammation of the eye, which also helps reduce burning and general discomfort.
Wearing an Eyepatch at Night
As the conjunctiva begins to thin out, many patients will begin suffering from dry eye symptoms. While lubricating eye drops and gels are used to help relieve the dryness, many patients find that wearing an eye patch at night (after applying their drops or gel) helps combat dry eye symptoms. That’s because the eye patch or eye mask helps retain some of the moisture during sleep, reducing the effects of dry eyes. Most patients only need to wear an eye patch for a few weeks before they see improvement.
Learning How to Recognize Conjunctivochalasis is the First Step
Conjunctivochalasis is a condition where the membrane covering the eyeball becomes loose and causes vision problems. Learning how to recognize conjunctivochalasis is crucial to maintaining eye health and vision as a person ages.
Since many of the symptoms can indicate other health issues, it’s vital to take the time to note symptoms and present them to an ophthalmologist. If someone is diagnosed with conjunctivochalasis, they’ll want to make sure to ask plenty of questions and discuss all the options for maintaining their eye health moving forward.
Anyone noticing odd changes to their eyes should see an ophthalmologist right away.