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Ptosis

Definition

Ptosis is also called "drooping eyelid." It is caused by weakness of the muscle responsible for raising the eyelid, damage to the nerves that control those muscles, or looseness of the skin of the upper eyelids.

Alternative Names

Drooping eyelids

Causes

Drooping eyelid can be caused by the normal aging process, a congenital abnormality (present before birth), or the result of an injury or disease.

Risk factors include aging, diabetes, stroke, Horner syndrome, myasthenia gravis, and a brain tumor or other cancer, which can affect nerve or muscle reactions.

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

  • A physical examination to determine the cause
  • Special tests may be done to evaluate suspected causes, such as myasthenia gravis

Treatment

If an underlying disease is found, the treatment will be specific to that disease. Most cases of ptosis are associated with aging and there is no disease involved.

Surgery can be done to improve the appearance of the eyelids in milder cases if the patient wants it. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct interference with vision. In children with ptosis, surgery may be necessary to prevent amblyopia.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The expected outcome depends on the cause of the ptosis. Surgery is usually very successful in restoring appearance and function.

Possible Complications

If a drooping eyelid is left uncorrected in a child, it can lead to lazy eye.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Drooping eyelids in children require prompt evaluation by an ophthalmologist.

New or rapidly changing ptosis in adults requires prompt evaluation by an ophthalmologist.

References

Custer PL. Blepharoptosis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 12.5.


Review Date: 8/3/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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