Histopathologic features of the floppy eyelid syndrome. Involvement of tarsal elastin

Ophthalmology. 1994 Jan;101(1):174-81. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(94)31368-6.


Purpose: Patients with the floppy eyelid syndrome have chronic papillary conjunctivitis with easily everted upper eyelids and a soft, pliant upper tarsus. The purpose of this study is to describe the clinical features and the histopathologic correlate in a group of patients with floppy eyelid syndrome.

Methods: The authors examined eight patients with floppy eyelid syndrome, four of whom underwent surgical management with horizontal eyelid shortening. Eyelid tissue from these patients was examined using light microscopy, electron microscopy, and immunohistochemistry and compared with controls with unrelated eyelid or orbital disorders.

Results: Clinical findings included obesity or eye rubbing, lash ptosis, and, less commonly, blepharoptosis. Two patients had documented sleep apnea with abnormal sleep electroencephalogram. Light microscopy of the surgical specimens showed chronic conjunctival inflammation, papillary conjunctivitis, and meibomian gland abnormalities, including granuloma formation. Verhoeff's modified elastin stain demonstrated a marked decrease in the amount of elastin fibers in tarsus from patients with floppy eyelid syndrome compared with controls. Immunohistochemical staining for elastin also showed a marked decrease of tarsal elastin in floppy eyelid patients compared with controls. In contrast, immunohistochemical stains showed that the distribution of collagen types I and III was similar between patients with floppy eyelid syndrome and controls. Electron microscopy demonstrated that tarsal collagen was comparable in patients and controls, and that there was a reduced amount of tarsal elastin in floppy eyelid syndrome compared with controls.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that tarsal elastin is decreased in the floppy eyelid syndrome, which may contribute to the laxity of the tarsus in this disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Collagen / ultrastructure
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / metabolism
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / pathology*
  • Elastin / metabolism*
  • Elastin / ultrastructure
  • Eyelid Diseases / metabolism
  • Eyelid Diseases / pathology*
  • Eyelids / metabolism*
  • Eyelids / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Granuloma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meibomian Glands / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Syndrome


  • Collagen
  • Elastin