Ptosis (droopy eyelid)

What is ptosis?

If you have droopy or sagging eyelids, you may have ptosis, or ptosis of the eyelid. It’s possible to have one droopy eyelid (unilateral ptosis) or both (bilateral ptosis).

How serious is ptosis?

Most of the time, ptosis is caused by an issue with the eye muscles themselves. Either the muscle that lifts your eyelid becomes weak or stretched, or it becomes detached. This kind of ptosis is generally not serious, although it’s still a good idea to seek treatment for it. It can still affect your vision or cause neck strain, as you may bend your neck to see out from under your eyelids.

However, it’s possible for ptosis to be a symptom of a more serious problem, such as a brain tumour or a stroke.⁵ If you have a sudden droopy eyelid which has developed over a few days or even a few hours⁵, then it’s more likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. If this is the case, you should talk to your doctor urgently as it could be a medical emergency. By contrast, ptosis caused by weakening muscles usually takes months or even years. Ordinary muscle weakness tends to get worse over the course of the day, as you become more tired, whereas a droopy eyelid that’s a symptom of a more serious problem may happen at random times of the day and even switch from one eye to the other.

Ptosis treatment

There are a few different options for droopy eyelid treatment, including medication and surgery.

If you have a baby or young child with congenital ptosis, it’s a good idea to get it treated as soon as possible, so it doesn’t affect the development of their vision.

If your child has developed amblyopia (one eye that doesn’t see as well as the other eye) as a result of ptosis in one eye, this will need to be treated as well. This usually involves wearing a patch or special glasses to cover the stronger eye so that the weaker eye can be strengthened.

In ptosis surgery, the surgeon might make a small adjustment to the muscle that lifts your eyelid, or they might need to reattach it to your eyelid if it’s become separated. You will probably be able to have the surgery under local anaesthetic.