Family Health: Eyelid surgery improves appearance and vision

As we get older, the first feature to show aging is often the eyes. Even people in their 40s and 50s may notice that drooping eyelids and sagging skin under their eyes have added years to their appearance. These changes can affect how you feel about yourself and how others perceive you.

In some cases, excessive upper eyelid skin, a condition known as dermatochalasis, can even obscure your vision. Today, both men and women are seeing remarkable improvements in their appearance and their vision with a surgery called blepharoplasty. This procedure involves removing precise amounts of skin and fat to eliminate sagging and create smoother, firmer skin around the eye.

Blepharoplasty can include the upper or lower eyelids, or both. At Community Physician Group Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, you’ll start with a consultation to talk about your expectations from the procedure and what it can do for you. We'll also discuss your medical history and do a brief physical exam to make sure blepharoplasty is safe and appropriate for you.

If you are having problems with your peripheral or night vision, you may want to obtain a “visual field test” before your consultation. This test can usually be performed at an eye doctor’s office. If the test confirms that your vision is limited by the excessive upper eyelid skin, oftentimes insurance companies will pay for the operation.

Your procedure will be done on an outpatient basis, and most people go home the same day. You’ll receive an injection to numb the area, and also an intravenous medication to help you relax.

For upper eyelid surgery, an incision will be made along the natural fold of your eyelid to hide the scar. Excess skin, muscle and fat are removed, and the incision is closed.

Depending on your specific condition, the incision for lower eyelid surgery may be made just below the lashes in a natural crease or inside your lower lid. Excess skin is removed and excess fat and muscle are removed or redistributed. In some cases a good result can be achieved by removing fat alone.

After blepharoplasty, your eyes may feel sore and tight for a few days. Most people can easily control any discomfort with pain medication, and cold packs can reduce swelling. Your stitches will be removed in about a week, and bruising around your eyes should resolve in two to four weeks. The incision scars will eventually fade to thin, nearly invisible white lines.

In the U.S., more than 215,000 men and women have blepharoplasty each year. It can give you a youthful, alert appearance that is closer to how you feel.