Ptosis (Drooping Eyelid)

Ptosis is a medical term for drooping of the upper eyelid(s). The drooping can be minor, or the eyelid can droop to the extent that it blocks large portions of upper and peripheral vision. Ptosis can be present from birth or it can be acquired later in life – usually from the effects of aging.

What is ptosis?

Ptosis is defined as the abnormal drooping of the eyelid caused by muscle weakness or paralysis. The muscle in question is the levator muscle, which is responsible for lifting the eyelid.

Ptosis can affect one or both eyes and is seen in both children and adults. When the upper eyelid begins to droop over the eye, it can obstruct vision and cause significant eyestrain and fatigue.

Symptoms of ptosis

Ptosis is characterized by a drooping eyelid. The degree of ptosis varies from one person to the next. Many people with ptosis have difficulty seeing and have to constantly lift their brows and tilt their head back to clear their field of vision. As you may assume, these unnatural positions can lead to eyestrain and neck pain. In children, ptosis is first seen as an asymmetry in the upper eyelid creases.

Causes of ptosis

Congenital ptosis is present from birth; it is caused by improper development of the levator muscle, which is responsible for lifting the eyelid.

Ptosis can also develop later in life as a result of the natural aging process. Over time, the levator muscle begins to weaken. Excess skin can also develop along the upper eyelids and weigh down the lids. Ptosis can also be a symptom of a disease that affects the muscles or the nervous system. Risk factors for ptosis include the following: 

  • Aging 
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke 
  • Horner's syndrome 
  • Brain tumor

Treatment of ptosis

Treatment of ptosis depends on the cause of the condition. If ptosis is associated with an underlying disease, treatment will be specific to that condition. To treat congenital and age-related ptosis, surgery is the best solution. A surgeon can tighten the elevator muscle of the eyelid to clear the field of vision and improve the appearance of the eyes. Excess skin may also be removed as part of a procedure called blepharoplasty. In children, ptosis surgery is usually performed at ages 3 to 5.

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