What Is Ptosis?

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on March 13, 2024
2 min read

When you look in the mirror, do you see sleepy-looking eyes? Maybe your upper eyelids sag a little or cover your pupil. It could be ptosis, which is a fancy way to say "drooping."

The main sign: One or both eyelids droop. It isn’t painful, but it can block your sight. You may have to tip your head back and lift your chin to see better. Or you might have to arch your eyebrows to lift your lids. Over time, these moves may affect your head and neck.

If your child has it, they could also develop amblyopia, or "lazy eye." That's poor sight in an eye that didn't develop normally during childhood. This might happen if the lid droops so much it blocks vision or makes things look blurry. Treat it early in childhood so it doesn't cause long-term vision loss.

You can get it several ways. Sometimes, babies are born with it.

You could get ptosis as an adult when the nerves that control your eyelid muscles are damaged. It might follow an injury or disease that weakens the muscles and ligaments that raise your eyelids.

Sometimes, it comes with age. The skin and muscles around your eyes get weaker. Surgery -- like LASIK or cataract surgery -- can stretch your eyelid. An eye tumor can cause ptosis, too.

If it doesn’t affect your vision, your doctor may decide not to treat it.

Often, doctors won’t treat children with ptosis. They will check their eyes regularly. And they'll probably treat amblyopia with drops, patches, or glasses. The doctor will also watch the eye to see if your child needs surgery as they get older.

For adults, treatment usually does mean surgery. Your doctor may remove extra skin and tuck the muscle that lifts the lid. Or the doctor may reattach and strengthen that muscle.

You may also be able to wear glasses with a special crutch built in. It lifts your eyelids so you can see better. That helps you avoid surgery.

Ptosis can cause problems when you drive, read, or even walk up and down stairs. If that happens, go to your doctor. 

Treat any other eye issues that could cause more problems. Think about surgery if your doctor suggests it for vision loss or constriction of your vision field caused by ptosis. For teens, surgery can improve not just vision, but self-esteem. Children with ptosis should see an eye doctor regularly.