Skip to main content

What Can You Do About a Droopy Upper Eyelid?

When the upper eyelid droops over the eye, it's called ptosis (pronounced "toe-sis"), and it happens to people of all ages.

Children may be born with the condition, and adults may develop it with age. In between, it could develop as a side effect after certain surgeries or, rarely, diseases or tumors.

Why Is It a Problem?

As we age, it’s not uncommon to experience a build-up of excess skin and fatty tissue in the upper eyelid. If it prolapses over the upper eyelid margin and eyelashes, it can affect vision, causing difficulties with reading, watching TV, or driving, among other activities. 

“The good news is, we can correct this type of ptosis with surgery to remove the excess skin and fat and reform an eyelid crease,” says Robert Kersten, MD, chief of the John A. Moran Eye Center’s Oculoplastic Division. “This procedure is called an upper eyelid blepharoplasty and is one of the most commonly performed eyelid surgeries in adults.” 

"It's not just about appearance," Kersten adds. “But that is one of the main reasons many adults opt for a relatively simple outpatient surgery to correct a droopy eyelid.” 

What Causes a Droopy Eyelid?

The most common cause of droopy eyelids is age-related stretching and weakening of the levator muscle tendon—one of the workhorses that lifts the eyelid. Considering that we blink some 15-20 times a minute, it's unsurprising that our eyelids might need a little help by the time they've reached a certain age.

According to Kersten, other issues caused by a droopy eyelid for children and adults could include: 

  • Dry, gritty eyes, and headaches brought on by straining the forehead muscle. 
  • Eye fatigue at the end of the day.
  • Head and neck problems brought on by tipping the head back, raising the chin or eyebrows. Over time, these movements can lead to a host of vision problems.  
  • Blocked vision in one eye, causing one eye to have better vision than the other. 
  • Possible astigmatism, causing blurry images. 
  • Developing misaligned or crossed eyes.

See a Specialist

Whether corrective surgery involves an "eye tuck" or a more complicated approach, your best bet is to choose a qualified oculoplastic surgeon to do the work. 

Surgeons like Kersten and his oculoplastic division colleague, H. Joon Kim, MD, are experienced ophthalmologists skilled in plastic surgery of the delicate tissues around the eye. They understand the balance of performing cosmetic or reconstructive surgery while maintaining eye function.

"It's always a nuanced kind of surgery," Kersten says. "Oculoplastic surgeons are uniquely capable of managing any complications and increasing the chance of a successful recovery."