Most ptosis is normal but unfortunately cannot be prevented in all cases. If you have sudden onset ptosis, or painful ptosis, contact your optometrist or GP as soon as possible. There are a number of eyelid problems that can affect one or both eyes, however, most eyelid problems are harmless.1 Find out more about them here.1
What is ptosis?
Ptosis, is the common name given to sagging, heavy or droopy upper eyelids and can affect one or both eyes. You might notice a drooping eyelid from birth, but it is more common in later life.
Depending on the severity of the condition, droopy eyelids can reduce vision – this depends on how much it comes across your vision. Ptosis can be permanent but in most cases, it will resolve naturally, with surgery or treatment. Other conditions such as dermatochalasis can cause a similar effect but this is usually due to the skin above the eyelid drooping down over the eye.2
What are the symptoms of ptosis?
The main symptom of a droopy eyelid, is that one or both of the upper lids will sag or droop. This can cause other symptoms to develop:
- Loss of vision
- Dry eyes
- Watery eyes
- Pain around the eyes
Your optometrist may refer you to an eye doctor to investigate persistent or sudden onset ptosis, to ensure that there is no underlying condition. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is best to go get your eyes checked by an optometrist or GP.
What causes ptosis?
Anyone can get ptosis, however it is more common in older adults, as it can happen during the natural ageing process. The muscle in the eye responsible for lifting the eyelid, stretches as you age, and can cause the eyelid to fall. Some people are born with ptosis, however this is rare. Ptosis can also be caused by trauma, high stress and neurological issues.
Ptosis in children
When a child has a droopy eyelid from birth it is called congenital ptosis and occurs when there is a problem with the levator muscle that raises the upper eyelid.
One type of congenital ptosis is Marcus Gunn ‘jaw winking’ syndrome. This is where the eyelid appears to lift when the child’s jaw moves due to an abnormal connection of the upper eyelid and nerve that helps to move the jaw. It’s often noticed when a baby is chewing or feeding.3
How do you treat ptosis?
The cause and severity of your droopy eyelid will determine the ptosis treatment but normally surgery can rectify the problem. Your optometrist or GP can explain the best form of treatment for you.
What is ptosis surgery?
Surgery for ptosis usually involves first shortening the tendon and muscle that raise your eyelid and then reattaching it to your eyelid using stitches. This will lift your eyelid, remedying your drooping eyelid but also brightening your vision and improving your overall view.
How can I prevent ptosis?
You can’t really prevent gradual ptosis but ensuring you have an eye test every two years may spot changes early so the condition can be managed. Noticeable or sudden onset ptosis or lid problems should be investigated swiftly by your optometrist or GP.
1. NHS, ‘Eyelid problems’, NHS (2020) [online] [Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/eyelid-problems/]
2. Science Direct, ‘Dermatochalasis’, Science Direct [online] [Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/dermatochalasis]
3. NHS, ‘Marcus Gunn (Jaw-winking) Syndrome’, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS (2020) [online] [Available at: https://www.hey.nhs.uk/patient-leaflet/marcus-gunn-jaw-winking-syndro
4. Robert M Pascuzzi and Juliet L King, ‘The Dropped Brow Sign in Psychogenic Pseudo-Myasthenic Ptosis’, Insights in Ophthalmology (2017) [online] [Available at: https://www.imedpub.com/articles/the-dropped-brow-sign-in-psychogenic-pseudomyasthenic-ptosis.php?aid=18519]