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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Ptosis


Alternate Names : Blepharoptosis, Drooping of the Upper Eyelid

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Ptosis is a term that describes drooping or sagging of the upper eyelid.

What is going on in the body?

The upper eyelid can droop or sag for different reasons. Most cases are either due to a problem with the muscles that move the eyelid, or the nerves that attach to those muscles. Some of the causes of a sagging eyelid are life threatening, while others only alter the person's appearance.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There are many potential causes of sagging of the upper eyelid, including:

  • inherited defects or defects present at birth
  • old age. In this case, the muscles grow weaker and there is a loss of eyelid support that gradually occurs over time.
  • muscle weakness or damage. This may be due to inherited muscle diseases, the use of certain topical medications to the eye, or myasthenia gravis (MG). MG is a condition that causes muscle weakness in most of the body because a person's immune system attacks the muscles.
  • damage to one of two nerves that attach to the upper eyelid muscles. This nerve damage can be present at birth or can happen later in life.
  • Possible causes of acquired nerve damage include:

  • diabetes, or high blood sugar
  • high blood pressure
  • tumors or cancer, which may be inside the skull or in the neck or lung
  • injury
  • an abnormally widened artery inside the skull, which is a potentially life-threatening problem
  • inflammation of the nerve, such as from an infection or from the immune system attacking the nerve for unknown reasons
  • Most of the risks are related to the underlying cause. For example, if the cause is aging, the condition poses no risks. If the cause is cancer, death may occur.


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    Ptosis: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 09/04/01

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