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Eyelid drooping

Definition

Eyelid drooping is excess sagging of the upper eylid. The edge of the upper eyelid may be lower than it should be (ptosis) or there may be excess baggy skin in the upper eyelid (dermatochalasis). Eyelid drooping is often a combination of both conditions.

The problem is also called ptosis.

Alternative Names

Ptosis

Causes

A drooping eyelid is most often due to:

  • Weakness of the muscle that raises the eyelid
  • Damage to the nerves that control that muscle
  • Looseness of the skin of the upper eyelids

Drooping eyelid can be:

  • Caused by the normal aging process
  • Present before birth
  • The result of an injury or disease

Diseases or illnesses that may lead to eyelid drooping include:

Symptoms

  • Drooping of one or both eyelids
  • Increased tearing
  • Interference with vision (if the drooping is severe)

Exams and Tests

When drooping is on one side only, it is easy to detect by comparing the two eyelids. Drooping is more difficult to detect when it occurs on both sides, or if there is only a slight problem.

A physical exam will be done to determine the cause.

Tests that may be performed include:

Treatment

If a disease is found, it will be treated. Most cases of drooping eyelids are due to aging and there is no disease involved.

Eyelid lift surgery (blepharoplasty) is done to repair sagging or drooping upper eyelids.

  • In milder cases, it can be done to improve the appearance of the eyelids. 
  • In more severe cases, surgery may be needed to correct interference with vision.
  • In children with ptosis, surgery may be needed to prevent amblyopia, also called "lazy eye."

Outlook (Prognosis)

A drooping eyelid can stay constant, worsen over time (be progressive), or come and go (be intermittent).

The expected outcome depends on the cause of the ptosis. Surgery is usually very successful in restoring appearance and function.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if:

  • Eyelid drooping is affecting your appearance or vision
  • One eyelid suddenly droops or closes
  • It is associated with other symptoms, such as double vision or pain

See an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) for:

  • Drooping eyelids in children
  • New or rapidly changing eyelid drooping in adults

References

Davis CM, Dryden RM. Blepharoplasty. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:vol 5, chap 74.

Savar A, Blaydon SM, Nakra T, Shore JW. Ptosis surgery. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:vol 5, chap 78.

Yanoff M, Cameron D. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 431.


Review Date: 9/2/2014
Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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