AskDefine | Define epicanthus

Dictionary Definition

epicanthus n : a vertical fold of skin over the nasal canthus; normal for Mongolian peoples; sometimes occurs in Down's syndrome [syn: epicanthic fold] [also: epicanthi (pl)]

Extensive Definition

An epicanthal fold, epicanthic fold, or epicanthus is a skin fold of the upper eyelid (from the nose to the inner side of the eyebrow) covering the inner corner (medial canthus) of the eye. The epicanthal fold is sometimes present in people of East Asian descent including Mongols, most Central Asians, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese and other ethnic groups of East Asian and Southeast Asian origin such as Indonesians, Malaysians, Inuit, Native Americans and Khoisans (Capoids) in Africa and Madagascar. Epicanthal folds may also be seen in young children of any race before the bridge of the nose begins to elevate.
The term "epicanthal fold" refers to a visually categorized feature; however the underlying physiological reason and purpose for its presence in any given individual may be entirely different.

In children

All humans initially develop epicanthal folds in the womb. Some children lose them by birth, but epicanthal folds may also be seen in young children of any ethnicity before the bridge of the nose begins to elevate. They may persist where birth is pre-term, and sometimes also where the mother is alcoholic.
Epicanthal folds can cause a child's eyes to appear crossed, a scenario known as pseudostrabismus.


In many persons of caucasian background and other groups who do not commonly possess the trait, the presence of the epicanthal fold can be a symptom of fetal alcohol syndrome, chromosomal disorders such as Down syndrome (Trisomy 21),, Cri du Chat syndrome, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome or pre-term birth.


There are numerous populations, across the world, that lack an epicanthic fold. However, the epicanthic fold is common in people of many, though not all groups of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent. It is found in significant numbers amongst Native Americans, the Khoisan (Capoids) of Southern Africa, many Central Asians and some people of Scandinavian , Hungarian and Sami origin. It also present on people of Tibetan descent, especially Tibetans and North-East Burmese people. Children of a parent with a pronounced epicanthal fold and one without an epicanthal fold may have varying degrees of epicanthal folds.
In Asian ethnicities, the presence of an epicanthic fold is associated with a less prominent upper eyelid crease, commonly termed "single eyelids" as opposed to "double eyelids". The two features are distinct; a person may have both epicanthal fold and upper eyelid crease, one and not the other, or neither.

Surgical alteration

The procedure of reducing or removing epicanthal folds is epicanthoplasty. It is now an extremely rare procedure. Asian blepharoplasty, however, is a popular form of cosmetic surgery in East Asia.


epicanthus in German: Epikanthus medialis
epicanthus in Spanish: Brida mongólica
epicanthus in Lithuanian: Epikantas
epicanthus in Dutch: Amandelogen
epicanthus in Polish: Zmarszczka nakątna
epicanthus in Portuguese: Epicanto
epicanthus in Russian: Эпикантус
epicanthus in Finnish: Mongolipoimu
epicanthus in Swedish: Mongolveck
epicanthus in Chinese: 內眥贅皮
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