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Treatment can improve your vision and keep your aging eyes healthy.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? As you age, you might notice your eyelids sagging more than they once did. 

Droopy eyelids are relatively common, especially as you get older. But the sagging skin isn’t just bothersome for cosmetic reasons — it can also affect your vision. 

“Depending on the severity, people with droopy eyelids can lose up to 30 percent of their field of view,” says Gregory Notz, DO, a Geisinger ophthalmologist specializing in plastic and reconstructive surgery. 

If your eyelids are restricting your field of view, treatments are available to help keep better vision within sight.

What causes droopy eyelids?

There are two main types of eyelid drooping: ptosis and dermatochalasis. 

  • Ptosis: This is when one or more muscles in your upper eyelid weaken due to age-related factors like decreased skin elasticity. The lowering of your upper lid can limit your vision, so you have to raise your eyebrows or look downward to see clearly.
  • Dermatochalasis: This is caused when excess fat and skin accumulate around your eyes, often making them appear “baggy.” While ptosis only affects the muscles above your eyes, dermatochalasis can affect both your upper and lower eyelids.

Although these are the most common causes, other factors can increase your risk of sagging skin, too. They include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Frequently rubbing or tugging your eyelids
  • Underlying health conditions like thyroid disease, diabetes or neurological disorders
  • Certain surgeries like LASIK, which can temporarily stretch the sensitive skin around your eyes

Most of these conditions affect both eyes. If you notice just one eyelid suddenly drooping, it could be caused by a stye (a red, inflamed bump on your eyelid) or trauma. 

Surgeries to treat droopy eyelids 

The most common treatments for droopy eyelids are surgical procedures. If excess skin is the main issue, a surgeon might perform a blepharoplasty, also known as an eye lift. 

“During blepharoplasty, a surgeon will remove small flaps of skin and fat near your eye and use stitches to reconnect the lids,” says Dr. Notz. “We can also reposition fat, giving the eyes a less puffy appearance while improving your field of vision.” 

Surgery to treat muscle weakening around the eye is slightly more involved.

“When treating ptosis, not only do we remove the excess skin, but we also tighten the eyelid muscle to help pull the lid back up,” he says. 

You can expect minimal side effects from either outpatient procedure, though you might have some swelling and bruising for a few weeks. While the improvement in vision usually lasts years, some patients’ eyelids might begin to droop again over time.

“Each case is unique, so the path forward can look different depending on the patient,” says Dr. Notz.

Can droopy eyelids be prevented? 

Sagging skin around your eyes is often an unavoidable part of aging. But making healthy lifestyle choices can lower your risks of vision loss and muscle weakness around your eyes. 

Dr. Notz offers the following tips to keep your eyes healthy as you age:

  • Keep up with eye exams: Your provider can monitor your field of vision over time and discuss options if you’re having trouble seeing.
  • Protect your eyes from the sun: If you’re spending time outdoors, remember to wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Adding more fruits and veggies supplies your eyes with the necessary vitamins and minerals to stay healthy.
  • Get some rest: Tiredness can make droopy eyelids worse. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night. 
  • Shorten screen time: Staring at screens like your computer, phone or TV strains your eyes. Take breaks every 20 minutes and turn on blue light filters on your devices.
  • Stop smoking: There are lots of reasons to quit smoking, but it can also help reduce your risk of ptosis or dermatochalasis.

Eyes on the prize

See your way around the issue of sagging eyelids by consulting with an eye care provider. They’ll help determine the best treatment plan for you. 

“Regardless of treatment type or underlying cause, our top priority when dealing with droopy eyelids is to improve your quality of life,” says Dr. Notz. “Maintaining your vision means you can continue to do the things you love, even as you age.”

Next steps: 

Explore eye care at Geisinger
Find an ophthalmologist
Learn the reasons behind that pesky eye twitch

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