A saggy eyelid may seem like more of a nuisance or a cosmetic concern than a health issue, and most often, it is. However, drooping eyelids — called ptosis or blepharoptosis — can limit your field of vision and lead to headaches and neck pain. In young children, ptosis can cause lazy eye (amblyopia) and even long-term vision loss.
Although plastic surgery is the typical route for treating ptosis, particularly if it’s getting in the way of your ability to see, there are several exercises you can try in order to prevent or help improve the appearance of droopy eyelids.
As with most forms of exercise, it's best to begin slowly and listen to your body as you go.
Exercises to Help Drooping Eyelids
While face exercises have grown in popularity in recent years, very few studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of eye or eyelid exercises in helping improve the appearance of skin sagging or wrinkles. One recent encouraging study did result in participants reporting real improvement in 18 of 20 facial areas and noting they were highly satisfied. Trials so far have been small, though, so there’s little medical evidence to back up the idea that facial exercise might improve your eyelids.
Researchers caution that to see any benefits, you’ll need to put in some time — as much as 20 or 30 minutes a day six or seven days a week, if you’re hoping to notice a change.
Trataka is a series of practices in yoga that are beneficial for your eye health in a number of ways. One such exercise is called Bahiranga, and involves the following four steps:
Step 1: Sit in a meditative upright posture either on the floor or on a firm chair. Keep your head straight and palms facing down.
Step 2: Keeping your eyes open, look straight ahead at a single point.
Step 3: Without moving your head, slowly move your eyes towards your right shoulder and rest your gaze for several seconds without blinking.
Step 4: Slowly move your gaze back to the center position, and then repeat on the left side.
There are various adaptations to this exercise. In addition to the above movements, you can incorporate the following gazes — all of which begin and end with staring at a fixed point and require you to keep your head still:
- Look up and down.
- Direct your focus to the tip of your nose.
- Try to look upward as if you can see between your eyebrows.
- Rotate your eyeballs slowly clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Wearing an Eye Patch
Wearing an eye patch may not seem like an actual exercise, but it is one of the best ways to strengthen drooping eyes, especially for children who are diagnosed with congenital ptosis (droopy eyelid at birth). If a child has severe unilateral (in one eye) ptosis, they are at risk for developing further issues such as lazy eye or strabismus (crossed eyes). In fact, strabismus occurs in 10.3% to 32% of children with droopy eyelid.
Because doctors prefer to wait until children are 3 to 5 years old before performing corrective surgery for ptosis, putting a closed patch over the healthier eye can strengthen the weaker eye and help prevent the onset of added conditions while your child awaits the appropriate procedure.
Although medical professionals previously suggested wearing an eye patch for six hours a day or more, recent studies show that children only need to wear an eye patch for two hours a day for this exercise to work.
If you feel pain while doing any of these exercises, you should either reduce the number of repetitions you complete or try something else.
And you’ll want to be sure you’re using proper techniques, since repeated muscle use in the face can actually cause wrinkles to become more defined if you’re not being careful. Additionally, if you’ve had cosmetic surgery, including injections or dermal fillers, facial exercises might not be right for you, since they can cause the fillers not to last as long.
Finally, you should note that some symptoms related to ptosis may be signs of a more serious condition affecting the muscles, nerves, brain, or eye socket. You should get in touch with your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Affected vision
- Double vision
- Eye pain or redness
- Difficulty moving your eye
- Weakness of your facial muscles, arms, or legs, paired with difficulty speaking or swallowing and a headache
- Sudden drooping of one eye
Even if you don’t think your drooping eyelids are cause for real medical concern, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor and see what else they might recommend to help be sure you’re protecting your vision and your skin as it ages.