Ptosis signs and symptoms - Discover what they are!

Ptosis (droopy eyelid) – Signs and symptoms

Ptosis occurs when the upper eyelid droops over one or both of the eyes. In addition to the drooping eyelid as the name suggests, symptoms experienced can be indicative of the causes of ptosis. Symptoms of ptosis can range from mild, moderate or severe. In this article, we will explore what are the common signs (what the medical and/or eye care practitioner sees) and symptoms (what an individual experiences) of ptosis.

kid with ptosis on the left eye

Ptosis on the left upper eyelid (Source: Health Benefits Times).

Ptosis signs and symptoms

Droopy eyelids 

Drooping of the upper eyelid is the most obvious recognizable symptom of ptosis. An individual with ptosis will realize that one eyelid appears lower than the other and/or that one eye is smaller than the other.

Tilting the head back in order to see / blocking vision

Ptosis can impair vision based on the extent of the eyelid obstructing the pupil (dark spot at the centre of the eye). When the eyelid droops and begins to block or cover the pupil and obstruct vision, individuals affected will often tilt their heads back in an attempt to see clearly. This symptom is more common in people with severe ptosis. Over time, tilting the head backward can cause head and/or neck problems.

girl on her back with pain in her neck

Neck pain (Source: Practical Pain Management).

Crossed eyes 

The same cranial nerve (directly attached to the brain) responsible for eyelid movement is also responsible for the alignment of the eyes, eye movement, tracking and focus. Since the muscles of the eye are closely related, crossed or misaligned eyes (strabismus) are commonly associated with ptosis. 

Due to the misalignment, individuals with crossed eyes may experience double vision.

Eye and forehead fatigue 

The levator muscle is responsible for lifting the eyelid. When this particular muscle is not functioning properly, the surrounding muscles work harder than needed. As a result, it is common for people with ptosis to experience fatigue around the eyes. In an attempt to lift the eyelid, eyebrow muscles may stay raised, resulting in exhaustion of forehead muscles.

girl with eye fatigue taking off her glasses

Eye fatigue (Source: University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre Health Beat).

Difficulty blinking or closing the eye 

Ptosis can occur at birth, due to aging, or as a result of eye trauma, surgery or disease.

When ptosis occurs due to a neurological disease (affecting nerves and/or muscles), the ability to blink and/or close the affected eye may be limited. This occurs as a result of a failure of the nerves and muscles in charge of opening and closing the eyes to work together.

Watery or dry eyes

The function of the eyelids is to shield the eyeball from dirt and debris, as well as to keep the surface of the eye moist. When the eyelid is unable to close completely, it leads to irritated and dry eyes.

When this occurs, the brain receives a signal of the dry eyes and as a reflex mechanism, there is an overproduction of tears causing watery eyes.

What should I do if I have symptoms of ptosis?

If you notice one or more of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is possible that you have ptosis. However, subtle changes may go unnoticed and only picked up by a trained professional, making regular comprehensive eye checks all the more important for timely identification, possible interventions and/or referrals to the respective health care professional when ptosis is observed.

Documenting by taking a picture of the ptosis when it first started and any changes that develop along the way will aid the health and/or eye care professional in tracking progression, diagnosing and selecting the most suitable treatment option for your ptosis.


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