Droopy or sagging eyelids can do more than make you look tired or feel older. They can also affect your vision.
For most of us, the eventual drooping is a natural part of aging. When you consider that we blink 15-20 times a minute, it's not surprising our eyelids might need a little help by the time they've reached a certain age. The severity varies, however.
"As we age, the muscles supporting our eyelids weaken, making our eyelids stretch. This may cause excess fat to gather above and below the eyelids," explains John A. Moran Eye Center oculoplastic surgeon Alison Crum, MD. "Our eyebrows may sag a bit, upper eyelids may droop, and the bags under our eyes seem to be there all the time—not just when we've lost sleep."
Cosmetically, these changes make some people unhappy—and that's understandable. But more importantly, droopy eyelids can prevent your ability to open your eyes all the way or reduce your side vision.
"Many people with drooping eyelid skin don't realize how much of their peripheral vision they are missing until they experience how big an impact it can make on driving and the amount of light coming into their eyes when that skin is lifted," Crum says. "Most excess eyelid skin removal can be covered by insurance if you meet certain criteria. Your physician can evaluate and advise on that."
What is eyelid surgery?
Eyelid surgery (also called an eye lift) removes excess skin, muscle, and fat in the upper or lower, or both, eyelids. The medical term is "blepharoplasty."
"Blepharoplasty is a common, easily tolerated outpatient surgery," Crum says. "But it requires an honest discussion about patients' expectations before we proceed. It is a relatively painless procedure, but you can expect bruising afterward."
Who's a good candidate for blepharoplasty?
Patients should be in good health and have a realistic idea of what they want the surgery to accomplish. Most patients are 45 years or older, although some people opt for earlier surgery if their eyelids affect their vision.
What results can you expect from an eye lift?
If the delicate skin around your eyes has lost elasticity and the muscles have weakened, resulting in drooping upper eyelids and bags in the lower lids, eyelid surgery can make the area around the eyelid look more clearly defined. This can leave you with a more rested, refreshed appearance.
The surgery won't stop aging, but the results are long-lasting (the skin does reaccumulate after time—perhaps 30 or so years). Bags and puffiness don't usually reappear after eyelid surgery. However, as you age, your brows may start to sag. Botox or other filler injections or a brow lift, also known as a forehead lift, can address that.
What eyelid surgery won't accomplish
Blepharoplasty will not change your basic eye structure, as it's not a reconstructive procedure. It won't get rid of crow's feet wrinkles or dark circles under the eyes.
"Eyelid surgery can definitely make you feel a lot better about your appearance," Crum says. "Heredity plays a big role in how we age. You can do your part, before and after eyelid surgery, by not smoking, avoiding sun exposure, and reducing stress."
Whether corrective surgery involves a simple eye lift or a more complex approach, your best bet is to consult with a qualified oculoplastic surgeon. Experienced ophthalmologists who are also specially trained in plastic surgery of the delicate tissues around the eye understand the balance of performing cosmetic or reconstructive surgery while maintaining eye function.