Eyelid Surgery (Blepharoplasty)
Is an Eye Lift Right for You?

Reviewed by Anthony Youn, MD

droopy eyelid surgery or blepharoplasty

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Eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty or eye lift) is a popular cosmetic plastic surgery to remove excess skin, fat or muscle from droppy upper and lower eyelids. Blepharoplasty improves baggy skin under the eyes, sinking upper eyelids or drooping eyelashes that impair vision. The surgery can also treat a medical condition called ptosis (drooping eyelid), which is caused by poor muscle tone or nerve damage. Ptosis causes the eyelids to hang very low and block vision.

Blepharoplasty treats drooping eyelids, but not drooping eyebrows or wrinkles. Blepharoplasty is often performed with another cosmetic surgery such as a brow lift or facelift to improve droopy eyebrows, crow's feet and facial sagging.

Another type of blepharoplasty known as Asian eyelid surgery is gaining in popularity worldwide. This procedure, performed on Asians with a "single eyelid," creates a crease where none exists.

Why Eyelid Surgery?

As we age, excess skin forms in the eye area, and the skin loses elasticity. Fatty tissue can accumulate under the skin. Your eyes will "look older" because these aging processes leave the eyes appearing tired, wrinkled or puffy. Even with good skincare and eyecare, wrinkles, puffiness and drooping eyelids will catch up to you. Genetic factors and body chemistry can cause these aging effects in younger people. Plastic surgery may restore a youthful and refreshed appearance to your eyes.

Is Eyelid Surgery Right for Me?

The best candidates for blepharoplasty are physically healthy, emotionally stable and well-informed about the procedure. Ideal candidates are typically at least 35, though genetic factors may indicate treatment for younger people. Candidates may be excluded if they have any of the following conditions: dry eyes, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, glaucoma, or Graves' disease. Your anatomy, including bone and supporting structure, may also affect your candidacy. Male blepharoplasty may not be as common as female blepharoplasty, yet it nonetheless remains a popular procedure.

The Blepharoplasty Procedure

Your surgeon will make incisions along the line creases of the upper eyelid and possibly along the outer lower rim of the eye's skin. When removing fatty tissue, but not skin, the surgeon may perform a transconjunctival blepharoplasty with an incision inside the lower rim of the eye's skin. These incisions often reach the outer corners of the eyes. The surgeon then divides the fatty tissue and muscle from the skin so that excess skin, fat or muscle can be removed.

Eyelid surgery is often performed under local anesthesia — while you are sedated, numbed and awake — in an outpatient surgery center, surgeon's office or hospital. General anesthesia (meaning, while you are asleep) may be used. Be sure to discuss the appropriate type of anesthesia with your doctor and the anesthesia provider.

Depending on the extent of the procedure, time in surgery may be up to three hours. Patients return home typically within hours of the surgery.

After Eyelid Surgery

Your eyes will likely be lubricated and covered with bandages after surgery. Oral medications will help with pain and discomfort during your eyelid surgery recovery. Report any unmanageable pain to your doctor immediately. The doctor will also prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection.

You will receive a list of instructions to follow for several days, including:

  • the proper way to clean your eyes
  • use of cold compresses
  • use of lubricating eye drops
  • head elevation
  • no makeup
  • no alcohol
  • no television
  • no contact lenses

Stitches are removed about a week after surgery. Bruising and swelling will continue to decrease after stitches are removed. Sunglasses and protective sun block are required for several weeks.

Normal activities can resume after about 10 days, though strenuous activities such as lifting, bending and exercise can resume after about three weeks.

Complications and Risks of Blepharoplasty

Following surgery, you may experience tearing, itchy, burning eyes, dry eyes, light sensitivity and blurred or double vision, which can persist for several days. Lubricating eye drops. can relieve these complications. There will also be some swelling around the eyes. Scarring is another possible complication.

Sometimes patients have difficulty closing their eyes when asleep; though rare, this complication can be permanent. The lower lids may appear to be pulled down; this rare condition, called ectropion, may require additional surgery. The eyes may also look somewhat asymmetrical.

As with any surgery, eyelid surgery risks include infection and reaction to the anesthesia. You can avoid most complications by choosing the right plastic surgeon and following pre- and postoperative instructions. With proper precautions by the surgical team, complications are typically minimized or prevented.

Consult a Qualified Surgeon

Before deciding on blepharoplasty, discuss the options with a board-certified plastic surgeon and an ophthalmologist. The plastic surgeon and eye surgeon should have extensive experience performing blepharoplasty.

Surgeons can show you photos of other blepharoplasty patients with similar eyelids. You can look at these pictures to help create your individual surgical plan, as well as get a better idea of what to expect from plastic surgery.

Here are some questions to ask the surgeon:

  • Ask about credentials, training and the number of times the treatment has been performed in the practice.
  • Discuss the type of anesthesia to be used.
  • Find out where surgery will be performed (surgical suite, hospital, other facility).
  • Ask about the extent of the eyelid reshaping and any associated procedures you may be having.
  • Ask about the recovery period and limitations on your activities.
  • Ask for an explanation of risks, possible complications and likely results.

Eyelid Surgery Cost

Since blepharoplasty may be performed to reduce fatty tissue, skin and muscle, the extent of the procedure can vary, which makes it difficult to give a range or an average eyelid surgery cost. In fact, each eye may have a different cost. The average cost for blepharoplasty is hard to estimate accurately until you are examined by a surgeon and have discussed a surgical plan.

Blepharoplasty plastic surgery comprises three costs: anesthesia fees, facility fees and surgeon fees. Since blepharoplasty is often performed during a brow lift, facelift or chemical peel, anesthesia and facility fees can be combined with the other procedures. The total fees can range from $2,000 to $5,000 or more, depending on the extent of the procedure. In 2007, the national average for plastic surgeon fees for blepharoplasty was $2,480, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Some of the cost can be covered by insurance if the blepharoplasty is related to ptosis (drooping eyelid) or other medical necessity. Be sure to ask your surgeon about filing for insurance. Blepharoplasty for purely cosmetic reasons is not covered.

If you are having a medically necessary procedure and want to add on a cosmetic procedure performed at the same time, you can save out-of-pocket cost by combining the necessary and cosmetic procedures into the same facility and anesthesia fees. Other common cosmetic procedures to enhance the facial features use laser technology, such as laser hair removal.

About the Reviewer of This Article

Anthony Youn, MD, earned his medical degree from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and completed his general surgery and plastic surgery training at the Grand Rapids, Mich., MERC Plastic Surgery Residency Program. He is a board-certified plastic surgeon and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the American Medical Association, the Michigan State Medical Society and the Oakland County Medical Society. He practices at Youn Plastic Surgery in Troy, Mich.