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Drooping Eyelids May Signal Serious Underlying Disorder

December, 2009

Healthcare Times Feature

John Pak, MD, PhD
Oculoplastic Surgeon
Wheaton Eye Clinic

Some people always look sleepy but not because they lack a good night’s sleep. Generally considered nothing more than a cosmetic inconvenience, chronically dropping eyelids may actually be the result of a medical condition called “ptosis.” And ptosis may be the first sign of several other serious medical disorders.

The upper eyelid is a complex structure with several separate layers of skin and muscle tissue; two important muscles raise and lower the eyelid. Ptosis occurs when these muscles are not strong enough to operate the eyelid, resulting in the familiar eyelid droop. Ptosis symptoms include difficulty keeping the eyelid open, eye strain as well as eyebrow fatigue from the effort necessary to constantly raise the eyelid. In the most severe cases, ptosis actually impairs the peripheral vision.

Ptosis becomes more common in elderly people as muscles begin to deteriorate. But the condition also may be present at birth as the result of abnormal development, or it may be caused by traumatic injuries which damage the lifting muscles of the eyelid or nerves leading to them. Scar tissue from an old injury also can severely restrict eyelid function.

Furthermore, an eyelid droop may be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition such as horner syndrome or myasthenia gravis. Only an oculoplastics surgeon can asses whether ptosis is indicative of a serious medical condition and provide appropriate expertise in order to correct the problem.

Fortunately, regardless of the type or cause, ptosis of the eyelid can be treated very successfully through surgery. Although the specifics of the operation are based on the severity of the ptosis and the condition of the eyelid muscles, the desired outcome never varies. Surgery always is designed to reattach the stretched muscle to its normal location. The result is a normal field of vision provided by an eyelid that raises and lowers properly and is symmetrical with the other “normal” upper eyelid. Learn more ...