Epicanthic fold

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Epicanthic fold
The epicanthic fold is the skin fold of the upper eyelid covering the inner angle of the eye.[1]
Latin plica palpebronasalis

Epicanthic fold,[1] epicanthal fold, epicanthus, or simply eye fold[2] are names for a skin fold of the upper eyelid, covering the inner corner (medial canthus) of the eye. Other names for this trait include plica palpebronasalis[3] and palpebronasal fold.[4] One of the primary facial features often closely associated with the epicanthic folds is the nasal bridge; all else equal, a lower-based nose bridge is more likely to cause epicanthic folds, and a higher-based nose bridge is less likely to do so.[5] There are various factors influencing whether someone has epicanthic folds, including geographical ancestry, age, and certain medical conditions.


Geographic distribution[edit]

Epicanthic fold depicted in a painting.

Epicanthic fold is typical in many peoples of Eastern Asia[1] and is common among Central Asian populations. It is most frequent in northeastern Asia and eastern central Asia, such as Mongolia, Manchuria, Korea, central and northern China, central and eastern Siberia and much of Japan and its prevalence decreases when one goes south and west. It is also noticed among indigenous peoples of the Arctic like Inuits and Aleuts. Epicanthic folds are characteristic of San populations in Southern Africa. It is also found in significant numbers among Indigenous Americans.[6][7][8]


Many fetuses lose their epicanthic folds after 3 to 6 months of gestation.[9][non-primary source needed]

Medical conditions[edit]

Epicanthic fold is sometimes found as a congenital abnormality.[1] Medical conditions that cause the nasal bridge not to mature and project are associated with epicanthic folds. One of the characteristics of a number of people with Down syndrome is prominent epicanthic folds.[10] In 1862, John Langdon Down classified what is now called Down syndrome. He used the term mongoloid for the condition. This was derived from then-prevailing ethnic theory[11] and from his perception that children with Down syndrome shared physical facial similarities (epicanthic folds) with those of Blumenbach's Mongolian race. While the term "mongoloid" (also "mongol" or "mongoloid idiot") continued to be used until the early 1970s, it is now considered pejorative and inaccurate and is no longer in common use.[12]

In Zellweger syndrome, epicanthic folds are prominent.[13] Other examples are fetal alcohol syndrome, phenylketonuria, and Turner syndrome.[14]


According to Ashley Montagu who taught anthropology at Princeton University, "The Mongoloid skull, whether Chinese or Japanese, has been rather more neotenized than the Caucasoid or European". In his list of "neotenous structural traits in which Mongoloids... differ from Caucasoids", Montagu lists "Larger brain, larger braincase, broader skull, broader face, flat roof of the nose, inner eye fold, more protuberant eyes, lack of brow ridges,.... less hairy, fewer sweat glands, fewer hairs per square centimeter and long torso". [15]

Evolutionary origin[edit]

It is hypothesized that epicanthic folds are caused by climatic factors and it may have originated more than once during human evolution. The genetic basis of epicanthic folds is not well understood.[16]

Epicanthic eyes vary possibly because they are adapted to different climates. In the warm climate of the Far East, Far East Asians have more fat on their eyelids which causes an inner eyelid fold. [17] This fat warms the eyes, conserving body heat.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "epicanthic". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "Eye fold". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "AllRefer Health - Epicanthal Folds (Plica Palpebronasalis)". AllRefer.com. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  4. ^ "Palpebronasal Fold - Medical Dictionary Search". Stedman's Medical Dictionary. 2006. Retrieved 2009-10-01. .
  5. ^ Montagu, A. (1989) Growing Young N.Y.: McGraw Hill pp. 40
  6. ^ Montagu, A. (1989). Growing Young. Bergin & Garvey: CT.
  7. ^ "Epicanthus". Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  8. ^ "epicanthic fold (anatomy)". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Park, J.I. Modified Z-Epicanthoplasty in the Asian Eyelid. ARCH FACIAL PLAST SURG/VOL 2, JAN-MAR 2000.
  10. ^ Pham, V. (2010). COMMON OTOLARYNGOLOGICAL CONGENITAL ABNORMALITIES. UTMB, Dept. of Otolaryngology. [1]
  11. ^ Conor, WO (1999). "John Langdon Down: The Man and the Message". Down Syndrome Research and Practice 6 (1): 19–24. doi:10.3104/perspectives.94. 
  12. ^ Howard-Jones, Norman (1979). "On the diagnostic term "Down's disease"". Medical History 23 (1): 102–04. PMC 1082401. PMID 153994. 
  13. ^ Kalyanasundaram, S. (2010). Peroxisomal Disorder-Unusual Presentation as Failure to Thrive in Early Infancy. In Indian Journal of Pediatrics. 77:1151–1152
  14. ^ MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
  15. ^ Montagu, Ashley. Growing Young. Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 1989 ISBN 0-89789-167-8
  16. ^ Hotep, Amon (September 4, 2000). "Race, Genetics and History". Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  17. ^ Coon, Carleton S. The Races of Europe. Distribution of Bodily Characters. August 11, 2006.
  18. ^ Wilson. Climate and the Human body. 2003. September 14, 2006.
  19. ^ Hotep, Amon. Race, Genetics History. 2000. September 14, 2006