Epiblepharon, commonly called inverted eyelashes, is a condition often seen among children of Asian descent. About 10 percent of Asian children are borne with the congenital defect — with nearly 46 percent diagnosed at birth, according to Sing Health, Singapore’s largest healthcare provider. Another 24 percent of the children are diagnosed by the age of one, and close to two percent from ages five through 18.
People with Down syndrome and obesity also may suffer from pronounced inverted eyelashes directly related to the extra folds of skin around their eyes. People with untreated thyroid disease also can develop a form of inverted eyelashes called secondary epiblepharon. An average of 72 percent of children, adolescents and adults diagnosed with epiblepharon have the condition on their lower eyelids. And the condition is more likely to strike both eyes.
Epiblepharon occurs when the eyelashes are turned inward, although the shape and position of the child’s eyelids are closer to normal. It’s similar to trichiasis, which is a much more common lid abnormality. Trichiasis is defined by the misdirection of the eyelashes toward the eyeball globe itself. Very often, it’s the result of an infection in the eyes. Children with inverted lashes also have abnormal folds of skin close to the lower or upper parts of their eyelids. The extra horizontal folds of skin push the inverted lashes to rub against the cornea, which can lead to discomfort and irritation. Untreated, the constant rubbing can scratch the tender cornea and cause serious vision problems.