Everything You Wanted to Know About Eye Lifts

May 15, 2017

Ever considered a surgical fix for your droopy, heavy eyelids? Sidhbh Gallagher, M.D., a plastic surgeon with Indiana University Health, answers common questions people have about this popular cosmetic procedure.

Why is the skin around my eyes getting so saggy?

Blame gravity and time. “As you age, the ligaments and tissue that hold the fat pads surrounding your eyes in place become less elastic,” Dr. Gallagher says. “As a result, you may end up with sagging, excess skin and fat on your upper eyelids and bags under your eyes.” However, dermatochalasis—the medical term for baggy eyelids—does occasionally affect younger people, typically due to genetic factors or conditions such Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and amyloidosis.

Is it true that eye lifts are sometimes covered by insurance?

If you need an eye lift (blepharoplasty) for medical reasons, your insurance company may pick up the tab. “Excess upper eyelid tissue sometimes sags to such an extent that it limits your field of vision, and at that point it’s not just a cosmetic issue,” Dr. Gallagher says. If your droopy upper lids are making it difficult to see, your surgeon will send you to an optometrist, who will perform tests to evaluate your field of vision and determine whether the procedure is medically necessary. If it isn’t, expect to pay an average of $3,022.

What can I expect during the procedure?

Blepharoplasties of the upper lids are relatively simple and may only require local anesthesia. The surgeon will make a small incision along the fold of your upper eyelid to remove excess skin and fat. Lower lid surgeries, on the other hand, can be more challenging for patients to tolerate because the incision is made so close to the eyeball. “The doctor will either cut right below the lash line or inside the lower lid, and some people find that difficult to handle when they’re awake,” Dr. Gallagher says. Your doctor may recommend general or IV sedation (“twilight anesthesia”) in that case.

Fortunately, the surgery is fairly brief—about 1 to 2 hours, depending on whether you’re having just the upper or lower eyelids lifted or both.

How much recovery time will I need?

You will experience facial bruising and swelling following an eye lift, but you should be mostly back to your old self in two weeks. “Most patients take a week off of work because the bruising does look a little scary in the beginning,” Dr. Gallagher says. Your doctor will advise you to apply cool compresses to your eyes for a few days following surgery to ease swelling and any discomfort you may have.

Dr. Gallagher says that while most doctors give patients painkillers, any pain you may feel following surgery tends to be minimal. “The most bothersome symptom people have is usually dry, gritty eyes, which is why your doctor will recommend using artificial tears for a few weeks,” she explains.

Will I have noticeable scars?

It’s unlikely, since the skin of your upper and lower lids heals particularly well. Plus, the placement of the incisions—in the crease, along the lower lash line, and inside the lower lid—makes them barely detectable.

What are the risks of blepharoplasty?

Most involve errors in the amount of tissue removed, which is why it’s important to find a surgeon who’s experienced in performing eye lifts. “There’s a chance your eyes may look asymmetrical if the surgeon removes an uneven amount of tissue or, if too much tissue is removed during a lower eyelid lift, you might see the whites of your eyes under your iris,” Dr. Gallagher says. It’s also possible to experience an injury to the eye itself (like a corneal scratch), but that’s rare, she adds.

-- By Jessica Brown

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