Ptosis (say “TOH-sus”) means that the upper eyelid droops in a way that’s not normal. Some people are born with ptosis. Others may get it later in life. It may be caused by problems with the muscles or nerves that help move the eyelid. If muscle or nerve problems cause ptosis, it may be more serious.
Ptosis is when the upper eyelid droops over the eye. The eyelid may droop just a little, or so much that it covers the pupil (the black dot at the center of your eye that lets light in). Ptosis can limit or even completely block normal vision.
Children and adults can have ptosis. Fortunately, this condition can be treated to improve vision as well as appearance.
Children born with ptosis have what is called congenital ptosis. This can be caused by problems with the muscle that lifts the eyelid (called the levator muscle).
The most obvious sign of it is a drooping eyelid. Another sign is when the upper eyelid creases do not line up evenly with each other. A child with ptosis may tip their head back, lift up their chin, or raise their eyebrows to try to see better. Over time, these movements can cause head and neck problems.
Sometimes, a child born with this disease can also have other eye-related problems. They can include eye movement issues, eye muscle disease, tumors (on the eyelid or elsewhere) and other problems.
Having ptosis puts a child at risk for vision problems. If the child’s eyelid droops so much that it blocks vision, amblyopia (also called “lazy eye”) can develop. One eye will have better vision than the other. A child with ptosis can also have astigmatism, where they see blurry images. The child may also develop misaligned (crossed) eyes.
Adults get ptosis (called involutional or acquired ptosis) when the levator muscle stretches or separates away from their eyelid. This can be caused by aging or an eye injury. Sometimes it happens as a side effect after certain eye surgery. Rarely, diseases or tumors can affect the eyelid muscle, causing ptosis.
Your ophthalmologist will find the cause of your ptosis in order to recommend treatment. They will do a complete eye exam, and may also want you to have blood tests and imaging tests. The ophthalmologist will likely recommend surgery to help the eyelid muscle work better.
Ophthalmologists consider the following factors when deciding the best way to treat it in children:
In most cases, ophthalmologists recommend surgery to treat it in children. This is to either tighten the levator muscle or attach the eyelid to other muscles that can help lift the eyelid. The goal is to improve vision.
If the child also has amblyopia, that condition must be treated as well. Amblyopia may be treated by wearing an eye patch or special eyeglasses, or using certain eye drops, to strengthen the weaker eye.
All children with this disease—whether or not they have surgery—should see their ophthalmologist regularly for eye exams. Ask your child’s ophthalmologist how often exams are needed. Because kids’ eyes grow and change shape, they need to be checked for amblyopia, refractive disorders, and other eye problems.