What is Ptosis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2016
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Ptosis is a condition in which the upper eyelid cannot be lifted all the way, causing it to partially cover the eye, and creating a droopy appearance. This condition can be caused by a variety of things, and there are several treatment options, depending on the cause and the age of the patient. One of the most common causes is simply aging, which weakens the muscles around the eyes, allowing the eyelid to droop.

People can develop ptosis in one or both eyelids, and the condition may be congenital or acquired. Acquired ptosis can be the result of an underlying medical condition, ranging from a stroke to muscular dystrophy. The condition can be related to muscle weakness or paralysis, or damage to the nerves which innervate the eyelid.

A condition known as dermatochalasis, in which excess skin develops around the eyelid, can resemble ptosis, making it important to diagnose an apparently droopy eyelid properly. This condition is treated with surgery to remove the excess skin so that the eyelid will appear normal again.

If the condition is being caused by a medical problem, treating the problem can resolve the droopy eyelid as well. In situations where the medical condition cannot be treated, or when the ptosis is a standalone issue, people can have the issue corrected surgically. Surgery can include resection of the nerves which innervate the levator and superior tarsal muscles responsible for moving the eyelid, and it may also include an eyelid lift.


In children, ptosis can be a serious issue, because it may lead to vision problems. For this reason, correction is usually recommended for pediatric cases. Children with untreated ptosis can develop amblyopia and other vision issues which will persist for life. Parents who cannot afford surgery or treatment for the underlying cause may be able to receive financial assistance from a charity which provides medical care to children, and some charities focus on vision in particular.

Adults may choose to leave the condition untreated, as long as the cause has been identified and addressed. While a droopy eyelid can obscure vision or give someone a strange appearance, the treatment may not be considered worth it, or a doctor may theorize that the condition could resolve on its own over time, as does occasionally happen. People who decide not to repair a droopy eyelid should monitor the eyelid closely, and seek medical attention if the droop becomes more pronounced.


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Post 2

A former co-worker had ptosis. I'm not sure what the cause was, but he had blepharopasty on his eyelids to resolve the condition. He said he was getting to where driving was a problem, so he knew he needed to have something done about it.

As I recall, his recovery time was short and I think he only took a couple of days off work.

Post 1

Ptosis is also a sign of envenomation from a snakebite. Elapids usually have neurotoxic venom and one of the first signs the person got a dose of venom can be ptosis.

Obviously, if this happens, getting the person to a medical facility and quickly, is of paramount importance.

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