Purpose: To better define the wide spectrum of lax eyelid conditions, especially the subtype referred to as floppy eyelid syndrome, and to clarify its relationship with associated ophthalmic findings.
Methods: A case-based retrospective review of all patients seen at UNC Department of Ophthalmology with a diagnosis of floppy eyelid syndrome or lax upper eyelid was performed. The period of review was from March 2002 to March 2007. A literature review was also performed using the term “floppy eyelid syndrome” and “lax eyelid syndrome” as the keywords in a PubMed search. Charts and cases were reviewed for the following information: age, sex, presence or absence of obesity, presence or absence of upper eyelid laxity, presence or absence of lower eyelid laxity, symmetry or asymmetry of eyelid laxity, sleeping position preference, diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), history of eye rubbing, diagnosis of keratoconus (KCN), lash ptosis, history of spontaneous eyelid eversion, papillary conjunctivitis, systemic hyperlaxity, diagnosis of meibomianitis, signs of anterior segment inflammation, and smoking or excessive sun exposure history.
Results: From our UNC case review, 14 patients involving 17 eyelids were identified. From the literature review, 72 articles were recovered and evaluated to yield a total of 324 reported cases through February 2007. From the combined data (n = 338), the overall minimum prevalence of sleep apnea in patients with lax eyelid condition was 16% compared with an estimated 9% to 24% in the general population. Of patients with lax eyelid syndrome, those identified with OSA had significantly more individuals with obesity (76% vs. 20%) and male gender (89% vs. 61%) than the group without OSA. The prevalence of KCN in patients with lax eyelid syndrome was a minimum of 6.8%, which is considerably higher than the estimated prevalence in the general population of 0.6%. However, KCN appears to show a significant association with the patient's side of sleeping preference.
Conclusions: Eyelid laxity can result from a number of involutional, local, and systemic diseases but is frequently of unknown etiology. When it is consistently associated with papillary conjunctivitis and dry eyes it can be referred to as lax eyelid syndrome (LES). A number of specific subsets of LES can be identified. One such subset, occurring primarily though not exclusively in males and associated with obesity, has been defined as the floppy eyelid syndrome (FES). OSA has been associated with FES where it occurs with greater frequency than in the general population, but no greater than seen in obese males without FES, and therefore appears to represent an epiphonomenom only. However, given the demographics of FES, this condition offers some predictive value for OSA and should alert the physician to evaluate the sleep habits of all such patients. Keratoconus also shows some association with FES and with LES. However, data suggest that the causative factors are sleep preference for the involved side and nocturnal eyelid eversion, rather than any underlying physiologic or anatomic relationship.
Floppy eyelid syndrome is a specific diagnosis within a larger category of lax eyelid conditions and has specific clinical implications.
Department of Ophthalmology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Accepted for publication July 24, 2009.
The authors have no proprietary or commercial interest in the material presented.
Supported by an unrestricted grant from Research to Prevent Blindness to the Department of Ophthalmology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, U.S.A.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Amy M. Fowler, M.D., Department of Ophthalmology, 130 Mason Farm Road, 5111 Bioinformatics Building, CB 7040, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7040, U.S.A. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.