Eyelids Won't Shut After Blepharoplasty

I had an upper Blepharoplasty 6 weeks ago. My eyelids still do not shut all the way. I can make my eyelids shut if I "muscle" them down, but if I shut them gently then about 2 mm of sclera shows, particularly from the center of the eyes to the inner corner. My eyes also open now when I sleep. My plastic surgeon said that the amount of sclera showing is mild and will correct itself over time. Is this normal, and is he being honest? I really worry that I'll need to have skin grafts or some sort of corrective surgery.

Doctor Answers 29

Upper Lid Blepharoplasty

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There are two different questions open right now... the first from aching eyes who has had a bleph approximately six weeks ago. The important issue for you at this point is your ability to protect your cornea.

A small amount of lagopthalmos (inability to fully close your lids over the globe) is not unusual immediately after a blepharoplasty. This typically resolves within the first few days and can be related to the local numbing medication and swelling. Lagopthalmos that lasts beyond that can be a concern in terms of full resolution.

Certainly most of these issues should resolve at six weeks. The critical issue if you can't close your lids is are you providing adequate lubrication and protection to your cornea. If the white parts of your eyes are not red and injected and you are not having pain this may indicate that you have adequate protection.

You should, however, have a conversation with your plastic surgeon.

To the second question posted in the comments section, 4 years is a long time to be unable to fully close your lids and you may need some form of intervention to correct this. A complete evaluation by a board certified plastic surgeon or occuloplastic surgeon is indicated. There can be many issues including that your upper lids are don't have enough skin or laxity to close or that your lower lid is somewhat loose and needs attention to correct.

I hope this helps.

Eyelid lag correction after upper Blepharoplasty

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As mentioned above, a small amount of scleral show is normal after upper eyelid blepharoplasty. However, this should get better within several weeks. You may be able to help this along by massaging the lid in a downward direction to help prevent scar tissue from keep the lids from closing. The main issue is while this slowly works out is to make sure your eye is protected by applying lubricant at nights and during the day. From the sound of it, you are doing a good job with this so far. I think it is too early to consider surgical revision at this stage. Good luck.

Amir M. Karam, MD
San Diego Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 121 reviews

Some things you can do right now

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It is very, very rare to need skin grafts after an upper blepharoplasty. So, eventually, you should be fine.

In the mean time, there are three things you can do to help:

1) Massage. If you massage your lids downward for 5 minutes twice a day, this can stretch the lids just enough to get closure. Ask your doctor to show you how to do this.

2) Exercises. Close your eyes very, very tight and hold them like this for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do this series 3 or 4 times a day. This exercises the orbicularis muscle which is the sphincter that closes your eyes.

3) Use moisturizing eye ointment at night. If you get pain, excessive tearing, or blurry vision, see your ophthalmologist right away.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon

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Keep a Lid On It - Vision Before Vanity

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A mild degree of tightness and temporary inability to shut the eyes completely is within the normal realm of post-operative healing in the first few weeks after Upper Blepharoplasty. However, it is unusual to have "scleral show" after an upper blepharoplasty, since this generally describes the exposure of the white of the eye (sclera) above the lower eyelid, most commonly occurring after Lower Blepharoplasty, and noticeable when the eyes are open.

There is a protective reflex rotation of the eye upwards under the upper eyelid, which may also result in the appearance of scleral show, after either an upper or lower blepharoplasty, or a brow lift. This reflex is helpful to protect the cornea from drying and exposure during sleep. Under this circimstance, scleral show is seen when the eyes are "closed".

The risk of prolonged scleral show or "lagophthalmos" (inability to completely close the eyelids) is corneal irritation due to exposure of the cornea and drying. If severe, this can lead to permanent corneal damage. You should see your plastic surgeon or ophthalmologist to evaluate the quality of your tear film, and to check whether there is any evidence of damage to the cornea. Protective measures can include the use of lubricating eye drops during the daytime, eye ointment at night, protective contact lenses, or temporary plugs in the tear ducts to allow your natural tears to accumulate, or a combination of the above.

Mild tightness or lagophthalmos of 2mm should subside with time and conservative measures, but be careful to keep the eyes moist at all times during this healing process.

Eye Lids Not Shutting 6 Weeks After Blepharoplasty

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Hi Aching Eyes,

The most important aspect of your recovery at this time is to protect your corneas both when sleeping and awake. Consult with your surgeon, and even your ophthalmologist regarding the best method of cornea protection. Moisturizing eye drops during the daytime, and taping the eyes shut when sleeping is recommended.

In my 23 years of performing upper blepharoplasty, after every case I have kept the excised skin for the first few days until I see that the lids are shutting completely. The lids are always open a bit following upper blepharoplasty if enough skin has been taken to achieve an excellent cosmetic result. Fortunately we have not had to use the skin for grafting. Rarely, it may take weeks or a few months until the lids completely close.

As time goes by, the 2 mm show should resolve, but remain in close touch with your surgeon, and protect your eyes. Good luck and be well.

Dr. P

Michael A. Persky, MD
Encino Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

Protection is better part of valor

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If you know your eyelids do not shut completely while you sleep, you should use some eye ointment at night to protect the cornea. Usually, the Bell's phenomenon causes the eyeball to rotate upwards when you close the eye and this protecs the cornea but this may or may not be sufficient in individual patients. Often, surgeons will leave a little "scleral show" at the conclusion of the upper blepharoplasty because tissues do relax. You might ask your surgeon if the failure to close completely is due to tightness of the soft tisse or muscle weakness as surgeons will often excise varying amounts of the orbicularis oculi muscle, the muscle that makes the eyelids actively shut. Both the tightness and the weakness should improve over time.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon

Inability to close eyes after blepharoplasty

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This is a good question, because many patients are concerned when their eyes do not fully close immediately following blepharoplasty. Fortunately, this is normal for about a week. Beyond that, they need to see their surgeons, because the eyes can dry out and lead to corneal problems. Thank you for the question.

Eyelids won't shut

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Mild lagophthalmos is normal in the short term after upper blepharoplasty. The key is to keep your eyes protected during this period with artificial tears and ointment at night. I am sure your plastic surgeon has gone over this with you. If you cannot close your eyes 3-6 months after surgery, you may have to have a correction. This problem, if it does not resolve on its own, is fixable.

James H. Rosing, MD
Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon

Incomplete eyelid closure after blepharoplasty

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If you had an upper blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) about 6 weeks ago, it's normal to still have incomplete eyelid closure(lagopthalmos) due to swelling.  You should be sure to use eye drops and lubricants to ensure that your cornea does not become dry during the night.  Unless your surgeon removed too much skin during the surgery (which is rare) your swelling should resolve over the course of weeks.

Be sure to follow up closely with your surgeon or see an ophthalmologist if you have any visual symptoms such as dry eye, excessive watering of the eye, or any visual change.

Best wishes,

Dr. Bruno


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I perform revision blepharoplasties which are basically eyelid surgery to correct problems after surgery by another surgeon which includes skin grafts. Six weeks after surgery is a short period of time. I would give it a full six months. This inability to close the eyes tends to improve over time. I would use ointment at night and artificial tear drops during the day. Also, your ophthalmologist can place punctal plugs to block the tear ducts to allow more tears to stay in the eye during this period. The eyelids tend to stretch out over time. In six months if it is not better it is much less likely to improve. You may need a procedure then.

Chris Thiagarajah, MD
Denver Oculoplastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.