Congenital Ptosis in Early Childhood

What is ptosis?

Ptosis refers to the drooping of the upper eyelid and when discovered to be present at birth or within the first year of age, it is referred to as congenital ptosis. Ptosis happens when there is poor development of the muscle (levator palpebrae superioris) that lifts the upper eyelid to open the eye properly. Though rarely, ptosis can also be due to genetic or neurological dysfunction reasons as well.

Signs and symptoms

One of the most obvious signs of ptosis will be drooping of either one or both eyelids. The lowering of the upper eyelid can either be partially or fully obstructing the child’s vision. Hence, this may cause the child to either tilt the head backward or raise their eyebrows in order to see under the lid. The child may even need to physically lift their eyelids with their fingers in extreme cases.

Ptosis may be associated with astigmatism, anisometropia (unequal refractive error), strabismus (squint), or amblyopia (lazy eye). The abnormal resting position of the eyelid on the cornea may cause the child to see blurry images which can result in astigmatism and may potentially develop into other refractive errors such as anisometropia and strabismus. Hence, all of these conditions become a risk factor for amblyopia.


Most ophthalmologists will recommend surgery to treat ptosis in children. However, if time permits and the young child is not at risk of deprivation amblyopia, some surgeons may wait till he/she is older in age. This will help to permit better patient cooperation and with normal growth and facial maturation, it can actually aid in more accurate pre-operative measurements.

Ptosis surgery is done by tightening the levator muscles to elevate the eyelid. It will allow the child to have an improvement in vision and achieve symmetry with the other upper eyelid for a better cosmetic appearance. The goal is to have a reasonable symmetry of both eyelids and a full field of vision for the child to avoid developing amblyopia.

It is very important that children with ptosis or even mild ptosis to having regular eye examinations early in life to protect them from the serious consequences of untreated amblyopia which can be irreversible if detected too late.


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