Droopy eyelids, scientifically called ptosis (TOE-sis), refers to the sagging of the eyelids over the eyes. Most of the time, this drooping of the eyelid is barely noticeable.
However, in extreme cases, the lid can cover a large proportion of the eye, causing vision to be impaired.
What are droopy eyelids?
Ptosis can affect anyone, at any age. It is more commonly associated with aging, but children are known to develop droopy eyelids, and may even be born with it. Ptosis is sometimes caused by trauma or a systemic medical disorder, and it can affect just one or both eyelids. It may be transient or can be permanent.
Many people look for treatment for droopy eyelids, but a lot of the time, this can be purely cosmetic. Droopy eyelids can make us look older and more tired, so many people take steps to remove them.
Droopy eyelids can also be the first symptom of a larger, more dangerous condition. Therefore, if you notice ptosis developing, you should consult your doctor immediately.
Symptoms of droopy eyelids
The most obvious sign of ptosis is the drooping eyelid. You may find that either one or both of the eyelids sag. Sometimes, this will be barely noticeable and won’t necessarily affect your vision. Sometimes, ptosis can be accompanied by dry or watery eyes.
In extreme cases however, you may find that the drooping of the eyelid will start to impede your vision, especially if it covers your pupil.
In severe cases, you may start tilting your head back so that you can see more clearly, even when having a normal conversation. If left untreated, severe cases of ptosis can lead to astigmatism, headaches and other vision issues.
If you notice that you are having rapid onset ptosis, over the space of a few days or weeks, you should see a doctor immediately. Often, there will be accompanying symptoms, such as headaches, loss of vision or a dramatic change in the size of your pupils.
Visit your doctor immediately to make sure that this isn’t a symptom of a larger problem, like myasthenia gravis or a brain tumour.
Causes of droopy eyelids
The reasons for getting droopy eyelids can vary from person to person. There are natural causes as well as more serious conditions – where droopy eyelids are just a by-product.
Droopy eyelids become more prevalent as people get older, due to the natural aging process. The muscle responsible for lifting the eyelid – the levator muscle – stretches as we get older and becomes less effective at keeping the eyelid open.
If ptosis develops in children, this can be an early sign of the muscle not developing properly. This is referred to a congenital droopy eyes. Often, children who develop droopy eyelids then go on to also develop amblyopia, or what is more commonly called lazy eye. In extreme cases, the eyelid can cover the pupil and surgery will definitely be suggested.
Risk factors for droopy eyelids
Age is the biggest risk factor associated with droopy eyelids. As we get older, the muscles become less effective at keeping the eyelid open, due to natural stretching. This causes ptosis to either develop or become more pronounced.
There are several lifestyle factors that can affect your chances of developing droopy eyelids. For example, alcohol abuse, poor nutrition, smoking and over-exposure to the sun can all increase your chances of developing ptosis.
Some minor medical conditions can cause droopy eyelids to develop, for example a sty or a temporary nerve injury. Typically, minor conditions will only affect one of your eyelids, whereas major conditions will affect both. However, it’s always important to consult with your doctor if you notice ptosis develop.
There are some serious conditions that can cause droopy eyelids, for example a stroke, brain tumour, or certain forms of cancer. Neurological disorders that affect the nerves or muscles of the eyes, for example myasthenia gravis – can also cause ptosis.
If you notice that you get sudden onset ptosis, over the course of a few days or weeks, you should see a doctor immediately as it can be a symptom of a larger problem.
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