Understanding Droopy Eyelids and Ptosis

by Jan 23, 2019

A droopy eyelid can appear many ways and may be caused by a wide variety of reasons.  Eye doctors refer to a droopy lid as a ptosis, pronounced toh-sis.  A ptosis can occur with one or both eyelids, can droop only a millimeter or cover the entire eye, and can arise at any point in life, depending on the cause.  The nature of the ptosis can give insight to whether it needs immediate medical attention, or whether it’s a harmless finding. Read on to learn more about what a droopy eyelid means.

droopy eyelid

Causes of Ptosis and Droopy Eyelids

A ptosis can be present at birth, or it can be a result of an injury.  Sometimes, bumps, styes, or infections of the eyelid or surrounding area can affect eyelid anatomy and cause the lid to droop.  Surgeries that can compromise the facial architecture have the potential to cause a ptosis, and sometimes the cause of ptosis is completely unknown.  


Age: A Common Culprit

Most commonly, aging causes a bilateral ptosis (meaning it affects both eyelids) due to loss of definition in facial muscles.  The muscle responsible for lifting the eyelids, known as the levator muscle, can weaken over time. This causes both eyelids to gradually become droopy.  Additionally, another age-related condition known as dermatochalasis can cause a type of ptosis.  Dermatochalasis occurs when there is excessive skin and tissue around the eyes and eyelids, and is much more likely to occur as we age.  Too much of this extra skin can result in droopy, poorly defined eyelids. A surgery, known as a blepharoplasty, can be done to fix droopy lids caused by dermatochalasis, and is done by carefully removing extra skin and tissue in the area around the eye.  


When is a Ptosis Serious?

In some cases, a ptosis may be an indication of an underlying medical condition.  In these cases, the ptosis will likely be accompanied by additional systemic or neurological symptoms.  For example, myasthenia gravis can cause a ptosis that comes and goes, and is oftentimes accompanied by double vision.  Cranial nerve palsies can affect the muscle responsible for keeping the eyelid taut, causing a sudden onset unilateral ptosis, and may be accompanied by double vision, light sensitivity, or pain.  Even brain tumors or strokes can cause a ptosis. If you experience a noticeable sudden-onset ptosis with no obvious cause (such as an injury or bump), immediately see your eye doctor or primary care provider to rule out a serious underlying cause.


Treatment for Ptosis

The treatment for a ptosis can be variable.  As mentioned earlier, blepharoplasty surgery can fix an age-related ptosis.  If the droopy lids are caused by an underlying problem, such as myasthenia gravis, treating that problem may get rid of the ptosis.  If the ptosis is longstanding and not associated with a serious problem, it may require no treatment at all. Your eye doctor can answer any questions you may have about a ptosis, it’s cause, and the treatment necessary for the droopy lids.


At Neal Eye Group, we put the health of your eyes first. Our eye doctors perform comprehensive eye exams and are happy to talk with you about any problems with ptosis or droopy eyelids.  Call us at (610) 828-9701 or schedule an appointment online! We serve Conshohocken, Plymouth Meeting, Lafayette Hill, and Whitemarsh.

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