RAPID CITY, S.D. — The term “droopy eyelid” can be used to describe several factors impacting both the upper and lower eyelids. Both men and women experience the effects of droopy eyelids, including dry eye and partial vision loss, but there are simple outpatient treatments available to treat these issues.
The two common causes of droopy upper eyelids are either an excess of eyelid tissue or a loss of connective tissue beneath the skin, both of which occur naturally as a person ages. Similar connective tissues in the upper brow will also relax with age, possibly resulting in a heavier brow that can contribute to a drooping upper eyelid. While family genetics and natural aging are the most common factor in developing droopy eyelids, there is recent research that suggests wearing contacts could be a factor in developing ptosis.
“They haven’t figured out exactly why,” says Dr. Robert Sage, a board-certified dermatologist at Rapid City Medical Center, “Whether it’s the stretching the eyelid as you put in the contact, or the slow relaxation of the eyelid over the contact lens, that’s the number one risk factor they’ve found.”
Droopy upper eyelids are not often a serious problem, but they can negatively impact a person’s sight by cutting off the upper field of vision. Dr. Sage says that many patients are surprised by how much their vision has been restricted, as it is usually a very gradual change. Other than affecting vision, the only other risk a droopy upper eyelid carries is the discomfort of pushing eyelashes into the eye itself.
Dr. Sage says that a droopy lower eyelid has the potential to cause more problems that can permanently impact vision. The lower eyelid is instrumental in keeping your eye moistened, and when it begins drooping it is easier for the eye to become dry and irritated. If left untreated, a chronically dry and irritated eye can lead to scarring and vision loss from a corneal ulcer.
When discussing a droopy lower eyelid with your doctor, they will likely perform a “snap test” to see if the eyelid is able to snap back in place after pulling it away. If the eyelid is still able to return to its normal position, it may simply be a temporary issue that will correct itself. If the lower eyelid does not pass the snap test, it can still be corrected.
“We can actually tighten the eyelid by performing a tarsorrhaphy,” Dr. Sage says. “We put a stitch through the lower eyelid, pull it, and anchor it to the bottom of your eye to tighten it so it doesn’t sag down.”
Drooping of the upper eyelid will rarely revert on its own. If the loss of vision is severe enough to bother you, it can be easily addressed. “The standby for droopy eyelid is blepharoplasty,” Dr. Sage says, “where we perform a small outpatient procedure to remove excess tissue and tighten up the eyelid.”
Dr. Sage encourages the public to discuss eye discomfort or vision loss with their doctor and recommends regular eye exams to help identify the condition before any serious symptoms come into play.