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Coronavirus Update: What patients and families need to know

Pediatric Ptosis

What is Ptosis?

Ptosis describes drooping of one or both eyelids and can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired. If left untreated, ptosis and other eyelid problems can cause:

  • “Lazy eye” (amblyopia): Inability of one eye to see well (in spite of glasses or other means)
  • Eyesight problems such as astigmatism (poor eyesight caused by irregular eye shape)
  • Permanent disfigurement

What Causes Ptosis and Other Eyelid Abnormalities?

Some known causes of eyelid problems include:

Types of Ptosis and Eyelid Abnormalities

Common eyelid abnormalities in babies and children include the following:

  • Ptosis, congenital or acquired, causing partial or complete (covering the eye to varying degrees)
  • Birthmarks or growths on the eyelids
  • Chalazia: Inflamed cysts that develop when an eyelid oil gland is blocked
  • Stye (hordeolum): Bacterial infection of the eyelash follicles

Symptoms of Ptosis

Problems with your child’s eyelids are usually easy to see. Some common symptoms include:

  • Drooping eyelid
  • Eyelid that is turned outward or inward
  • Redness, swelling, or pimple-like bumps on the eyelid
  • Pain or tenderness in the eyelid
  • Backward head tilt to compensate for partially closed eyelids

How is Ptosis Diagnosed?

If your child’s pediatrician suspects ptosis or other eyelid abnormalities, he or she may refer you to an ophthalmologist for further diagnosis and management  

Treatments for Ptosis and Other Eyelid Abnormalities

Many eyelid problems, such as styes or chalazia, can be treated at home. Some of the things you can do include:

  • Gentle cleaning of the eyelids with a warm, wet washcloth
  • Warm compresses for 15 minutes, four times a day for 7-10 days
  • Application of  eye drops or ointment

If your child’s ptosis or other eyelid problems is more serious, your pediatrician may recommend further treatment. At Children’s National, our goal is to restore normal eyelid function so that your child can see normally. We offer the following treatment options:

  • Antibiotics for recurring infections or inflammation of the eyelids
  • Surgery to drain styes or chalazia
  • Surgery to correct the eyelid position and shape for ptosis

Learn more about our Ophthalmology program at Children’s National.

Children's Team

Children's Team


William Madigan

William Madigan

Division Chief, Ophthalmology
Chairman, Pediatric Ophthalmology Fellowship Program



Our specialized pediatric ophthalmologists are experts at recognizing and treating complex eye conditions in infants and children.

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