Eyelid Drooping (Ptosis)

Written by Autumn Rivers and Marijane Leonard | Published on April 30, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What is Ptosis?

Eyelid drooping, which is also called ptosis, may occur due to trauma, age, or various medical disorders. This condition can affect one or both eyes, it may come and go, or it might be permanent. Depending on the severity of the condition, drooping eyelids can block vision. In most cases, however, the condition is treatable, often through surgery.

Causes and Risk Factors of Eyelid Drooping

Natural Causes

Anyone can get droopy eyelids, but it is most common in older people because of the natural aging process. Keep in mind, though, that people of all ages can be affected by this condition. Babies are sometimes born with it, and the cause is unknown.

Medical Conditions

If your eyelids are drooping, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, especially if the issue affects both eyelids. For example, drooping eyelids could signal migraines. If just one of your eyelids droops, it may be a result of a nerve injury or a temporary sty (inflammation and swelling of the eyelid that is usually harmless).

Serious Conditions

In some cases, eyelid drooping is caused by more serious conditions, such as a stroke, brain tumor, or cancer of the nerves or muscles.

What Are the Symptoms of Eyelid Drooping?

The main symptom of eyelid drooping is that one or both eyelids sag. In some cases, this can affect your vision. However, many patients find that the eyelid sagging is barely noticeable or does not happen all the time.

A doctor should investigate persistent eyelid drooping you may have to make sure there are no underlying conditions. This is especially important if you notice that migraine headaches or other issues have shown up since you first noticed the drooping.

Diagnosing Eyelid Drooping

Your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask you about your medical history. Once you have explained how often the eyelids droop and the length of time this has been happening, your doctor will run some tests to find the cause.

For example, a slit-lamp exam may be done so that your doctor can take a close look at your eye with the help of high-intensity light. Your eyes may be dilated for this exam, so expect some slight eye discomfort.

Another exam that can be used to diagnose issues such as eyelid drooping is the Tensilon test. Your doctor may inject a drug called Tensilon into one of your veins. You may be asked to cross your eyes or do other movements that use your eye muscles. Your doctor will monitor you to see if the Tensilon improves your muscle strength. This will help him or her determine whether muscle issues are causing the eyelid drooping.

Treating Eyelid Drooping

The treatment for eyelid drooping depends on the cause. If the condition is the result of age or is something you were born with, you may not receive treatment. Your doctor may explain that nothing needs to be done because the condition is not usually harmful to your health. However, you may opt for plastic surgery if you want to reduce the drooping.

If your eyelids block your vision, you will need medical treatment. Your doctor may recommend surgery. Glasses that can hold the eyelid up are another option. This treatment is often best when the eyelid drooping is only temporary so that you do not have to wear the glasses all the time. Glasses may also be recommended if you are not a good candidate for surgery.

If your doctor finds that your eyelid drooping is caused by an underlying condition, you will likely be treated for that. This should typically stop the eyelids from sagging.

Long-Term Outlook

Eyelid drooping is rarely harmful to your health. However, if your eyelids block your vision, you should avoid driving until the condition has been treated. Your long-term outlook will depend on the cause of the eyelid drooping. Most of the time, the condition is just a cosmetic issue.


There is no way to prevent eyelid drooping. You may be able to stop it from getting worse by seeing a doctor soon after you notice the issue.

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