[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Clinicopathologic Reports, Case Reports, and Small Case Series
February 2006

Congenital Ectropion Uveae and Glaucoma

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2006 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2006

Arch Ophthalmol. 2006;124(2):271-273. doi:10.1001/archopht.124.2.271

Congenital ectropion uveae (CEU) is a rare, nonprogressive condition scarcely mentioned in the ophthalmic literature. According to its etiology, ectropion is classified into 2 groups: acquired and congenital. It is believed that the cause of acquired ectropion is membranous traction of the iris from secondary causes such as inflammation and ischemia.1

According to Dowling et al,2 the term congenital ectropion was introduced in 1869 by Colsman3; however, it was later revealed that what was really described were flocculi. The first authors to actually describe congenital ectropion were Wicherkiewicz4 in 1891 and Spiro5 in 1896.

Congenital ectropion uveae consists of iris pigment epithelium on the anterior surface of the iris, anterior insertion of the iris, dysgenesis of the drainage angle, and glaucoma. Although the actual anomaly is nonprogressive, multiple studies6-10 have linked it with the appearance of progressive open-angle glaucoma due to angle dysgenesis.

Most descriptions of CEU2,6-9 have shown a relationship between the presence of ectropion and the eventual development of glaucoma. Some studies6,9,10 have also associated ectropion uveae with congenital defects and genetic diseases, but researchers have not yet verified whether the disease is genetically predetermined or whether it is clearly associated with any of these genetic defects.

In this article, a case of CEU in a 3-year-old girl is reported. Histopathologic examination of an iris tissue specimen obtained during surgical management of glaucoma demonstrated iris neovascularization. Thorough clinical examination revealed no neoplasia. Implications of neovascularization in the pathogenesis of CEU are discussed.

Report of a Case

In April 2001, a 3-year-old girl was referred to the William and Anna Goldberg Glaucoma Service, Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia, Pa, by a pediatric ophthalmologist for further management of treatment-resistant glaucoma. The patient had elevated pressure in the left eye, complaints of light sensitivity, ocular pain, occasional redness, and a “swollen eye.” Ocular history included iris ectropion (ectropion uveae) in the left eye and the development of a spontaneous hyphema. One week prior to referral, the intraocular pressure (IOP) was 35 mm Hg OS, and IOP-lowering medical treatment was instituted.

Visual acuity without refractive correction was “fix and follow” in both eyes. External, slitlamp, and gonioscopic examinations revealed no evident conjunctival, scleral, or corneal findings.

The left pupil was fixed and dilated, and ectropion uveae was evident (Figure 1). Red light reflex was present in both eyes and an enlarged eyecup was noted, although retinal hemorrhages were not present. It was concluded that the patient had open-angle glaucoma. Atropine therapy was discontinued, and an examination under anesthesia accompanied by a possible filtration procedure in the left eye was scheduled.

Figure 1.
Nondilated appearance of congenital ectropion uveae.

Nondilated appearance of congenital ectropion uveae.

During the procedure, the IOP was 15 mm Hg OD and 39 mm Hg OS, with no intraocular inflammation. The left pupil was fixed and dilated, and the horizontal corneal diameter measured 13.0 mm OS and 11.5 mm OD. An abnormal angle with an anterior insertion of the iris was noted during gonioscopic examination (Figure 2). Aside from increased optic nerve cupping (0.6 cup-disc ratio), the posterior segment examination results were normal. Surgical trabeculectomy with adjunctive mitomycin C (0.4 mg/mL) for 2 minutes was performed, and a small piece of the iris measuring 2 × 1 mm was sent for histopathologic examination.

Figure 2.
Intraoperative gonioscopic findings. White arrow indicates congenital ectropion uveae; black arrow, anterior insertion of the peripheral iris.

Intraoperative gonioscopic findings. White arrow indicates congenital ectropion uveae; black arrow, anterior insertion of the peripheral iris.

Microscopical examination disclosed a folded segment of the iris. A thin layer of iris pigment epithelium, seen both on high (Figure 3) and low magnification, extended onto the anterior surface of the iris, which was consistent with ectropion iridis (uveae). Bordering the area of ectropion iridis, the anterior iridic surface appeared flattened. The flattened area was very regular, suggesting that this reflected the presence of a delicate, fibrovascular surface membrane rather than a compression artifact. In some areas, blood was confined deep to the surface membrane, and there was also presence of iris neovascularization as well as intrastromal hemorrhage. There was no evidence of malignancy, ectopic Descemet membrane, or iris nodules (Figure 3).

Figure 3.
Artifactitiously detached monolayer of the iris pigment epithelium rests on the flattened anterior surface of the iris, which contains many new vessels (arrows). Loculated hemorrhage (H) is present in the deeper stroma (hematoxylin-eosin, original magnification ×100).

Artifactitiously detached monolayer of the iris pigment epithelium rests on the flattened anterior surface of the iris, which contains many new vessels (arrows). Loculated hemorrhage (H) is present in the deeper stroma (hematoxylin-eosin, original magnification ×100).

Three months later, the IOP measured 11 mm Hg OD and 16 mm Hg OS, with a low-lying and diffuse bleb in the left eye. The horizontal corneal diameter was 12.25 mm OS and 11.25 mm OD with no Haab striae. The cup-disc ratio had improved to 0.2 OS (from 0.6), with a refraction of plano in the right eye and −5.0 diopters OS. All of the medications were discontinued, and the only therapeutic regimen thereafter was patching in the left eye for 4 h/d.


In 1985, Dowling et al2 described 10 patients with CEU, hypoplasia of the iris stroma, iridotrabecular dysgenesis, anterior insertion of the iris root, and glaucoma. No underlying systemic abnormalities were found. It was hypothesized that this syndrome originated from a neural crest cell migration abnormality. Almost all of the patients required surgical intervention for IOP control.

Ritch et al6 reported 8 cases of CEU. In this series, underlying systemic congenital pathological abnormalities were present in 7 of 8 patients. Neurofibromatosis, Prader-Willi syndrome, Rieger anomaly, and facial hemihypertrophy were found to occur concomitantly with CEU, suggesting the possibility of a neural crest cell disorder. Seven of 8 patients developed glaucoma.

The present case is unique in that the histopathologic specimen from the iridectomy indicated the presence of a distinct fibrovascular surface membrane covering the anterior aspect of the iris stroma. It is possible that this membrane was responsible for pulling the posterior pigmented layer of the iris anteriorly, creating the ectropion. This raises the question of whether this membrane together with the previously noted angle abnormality or the membrane itself is responsible for the decreased aqueous outflow and secondary glaucoma.

Also of interest was the presence of intrastromal hemorrhage, which is not believed to have resulted from intraoperative trauma, as well as the suggestion of neovascularization on the histopathologic specimen. In such cases, a neoplasm must always be excluded, and no neoplasm was found in this patient. This finding correlates with the patient's history of a spontaneous hyphema, which may be similar to the finding of iris neovascularization in a case of CEU that was described by Roth and Shaffer.10 It also raises the question of the cause of the neovascularization as well as its relationship to angle malformation and neural crest cells. It may be possible that the primary insult is a vascular factor that secondarily leads to a defect in neural crest migration, similar to what was seen in an embryonal study of the heart.11 These findings raise new questions regarding the mechanisms of the disease.

Correspondence: Dr Harasymowycz, Ophthalmology Research Unit, Aisle F, CARC, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, 5415 de L’Assomption Blvd, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H1T 2M4 (pavloh@hotmail.com).

Financial Disclosure: None.

Walton  DS Glaucoma in childhood. In:Albert  DJakobiec  Feds. Principles and Practice of Ophthalmology 2nd Philadelphia, Pa WB Saunders Co2000;4408- 4415
Dowling  JL  JrAlbert  DMNelson  LBWalton  DS Primary glaucoma associated with iridotrabecular dysgenesis and ectropion uveae.  Ophthalmology 1985;92912- 921PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Colsman Papilloma Iridis (physiologische thierähnilche Bildung der Iris).  Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd 1889;7- 53Google Scholar
Wicherkiewicz  B Beitrag zur Kenntniss des Ectropion Uveae congenitum.  Albrecht von Graefes Arch Ophthalmol 1891;37204- 207Google ScholarCrossref
Spiro  G Ein Fall von Ectropion uveae congenitum.  Centralbl Prakt Augenheilkd 1896;20310- 311Google Scholar
Ritch  RForbes  MHetherington  J  JrHarrison  RPodos  SM Congenital ectropion uveae with glaucoma.  Ophthalmology 1984;91326- 331PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Mandal  AK Late-onset unilateral primary developmental glaucoma associated with iridotrabecular dysgenesis, congenital ectropion uveae and thickened corneal nerves: a new neural crest syndrome?  Ophthalmic Surg Lasers 1999;30567- 570PubMedGoogle Scholar
Politi  FSachs  RBarishak  R Neurofibromatosis and congenital glaucoma: a case report.  Ophthalmologica 1977;176155- 159PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Wolter  JRButler  RG Pigment spots of the iris and ectropion uveae with glaucoma in neurofibromatosis.  Am J Ophthalmol 1963;56964- 973PubMedGoogle Scholar
Roth  HShaffer  RN Neurofibromatosis and glaucoma. In:Bellows  JGed. Contemporary Ophthalmology: Honoring Sir Stewart Duke-Elder  Baltimore, Md Williams & Wilkins1972;180- 189
Compernolle  VBrusselmans  KFranco  D  et al.  Cardia bifida, defective heart development and abnormal neural crest migration in embryos lacking hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha.  Cardiovasc Res 2003;60569- 579PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref