What Is Ptosis?

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."

What Are the Symptoms?

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, he 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.

What Causes It?

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.

How Is It Treated?

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

Often, doctors won’t treat children with ptosis. Your child's doctor will check his eyes regularly. He’ll probably treat amblyopia with drops, patches, or glasses. And he’ll watch the eye to see if your child needs surgery as he gets older.

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

How Do I Manage It?

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

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

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD on November 17, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

EyeSmart, American Academy of Ophthalmology: "What is Ptosis?" "Ptosis Symptoms," "What Causes Ptosis?" "Ptosis Treatment."

Cleveland Clinic: "Ptosis."

American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: "Ptosis."

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus: "Ptosis."

© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.