As the often quoted saying goes, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Though it may now be a cliché, this saying couldn’t be further from the truth.
Our eyes expose many of our emotions and reveal plenty of information about us to the outside world. Whether we are stressed, tired, fearful, sad, or exhilarated, our eyes clearly demonstrate our emotions.
For some, the eyes can be sources of significant discomfort. Sufferers of the medical condition “dry eyes” can’t produce enough tears to properly lubricate and sustain the eyes, leading to redness, itching, and irritation.
The delicate nature of the thin skin that surrounds our eyes means they are also particularly susceptible to the aging process. Indeed, the eyes are often the first areas of concern for people beginning to show signs of aging. Initially, fine lines and wrinkles emerge (commonly referred to as crow’s feet), followed by puffy sacs under the eyes and droopy upper eyelids.
Eyelid surgery, technically referred to as blepharoplasty, is a cosmetic surgery that addresses these common signs of aging. Blepharoplasty’s rejuvenating nature has a significant impact on the entire face; however, the procedure may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those suffering from dry eyes.
Here, Dr. George H. Landis discusses precisely what is involved in eyelid surgery and why patients suffering from dry eyes may require alternative treatments.
What is Eyelid Surgery?
Eyelid surgery is a plastic surgery procedure performed on an outpatient basis.
The procedure can be used to address most aspects of eye-aging:
- Eliminates puffy bags under the eyelids
- Removes excess skin in the upper eyelid, causing a droopy appearance to the eye
- Tightens the skin surrounding the eyes, restoring a youthful countenance to the upper face
The procedure is often performed under local anesthesia. However, this does depend on the extent of the surgery being carried out.
During a blepharoplasty, Dr. Landis will excise excess skin. He can also remove excess fat, or introduce fat cells via fat transfer to add volume and fullness to sagging eyes.
Patients generally require anywhere between seven to ten days to return to normal activities following the surgery, and after fourteen to eighteen days, the eyes should be nearly fully healed.
During recovery from surgery, patients often experience lower tear production and lower blink rates. Both of these factors contribute towards temporary dry eyes, and in patients suffering from chronic dry eyes, eyelid surgery can make the condition worse.
What Are Dry Eyes?
Medically referred to as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, dry eyes occur when either not enough tears are produced to lubricate the eyes properly, or the tears produced evaporate too quickly.
It is a common medical condition in the U.S., with over 3 million cases treated every year. The condition can be temporary or chronic, with different causes requiring different treatments.
Generally affecting older adults, particularly women heading towards menopause, dry eyes are a treatable condition.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
Patients suffering from dry eyes either don’t produce enough tears, or the tears produced don’t perform their lubricating function properly.
- Not enough tears. Produced by a number of glands in and around the eyelids, tears protect our eyes. These glands tend to produce fewer tears as we age, as a result of medication, medical conditions, or environmental factors. Hormonal changes also reduce tear production, which is why menopausal women frequently experience dry eyes. Dry, windy environmental conditions also increase dry eyes, as tears evaporate at a faster rate in such circumstances.
- Poor tear quality. Tears have three components: oil, water, and mucus. Each element of the tear serves a different purpose. Oil in tears prevents evaporation of the water, which is responsible for moisturizing and lubricating the surface of the eyeball or cornea. The mucus in tears ensures the solution is spread evenly over the entire cornea surface. When these components of tears do not all function properly, the tears may evaporate too quickly or not spread evenly, thus resulting in dry eye syndrome.
What Can Be Done to Cure Dry Eyes?
For some, dry eye is a chronic condition. Fortunately, there are treatments available to keep comfort levels normal and to ensure vision does not become impaired.
These include over-the-counter eye drops that act as artificial tears, which supplement or encourage tear production to keep the eyes moist and lubricated.
Other cases are treated by blocking the tear ducts, which prevents tears from being drained from the eyes, thus conserving the tears that are produced.
Taking general health supplements, particularly omega-3 fatty acid supplements, can encourage healthy tear production and combat chronic dry eyes.
Patients struggling with dry eyes can also reduce its severity by taking personal care measures in their daily routines. Mainly, hydrating well with eight to ten glasses of water per day, and wearing wraparound sunglasses outdoors will reduce the impact of wind and sun.
How Does Eyelid Surgery Affect the Eyes?
Immediately following a blepharoplasty, patients generally experience some degree of swelling and bruising. This is typical of any surgery, as swelling is the body’s natural response to trauma to the skin and tissue.
This inflammation around the eyes can interfere with the production and drainage of tears from and around the eyeball, which can lead to either weeping eyes or dry eyes.
In some cases, patients may experience temporary dry eyes as a side-effect from blepharoplasty during the healing process.
One common side effect with eyelid surgery is a lower “blink rate,” which can lead to dry eyes during the recovery period and can exacerbate the condition in people who already suffer from dry eyes.
Lowered Blink Rate
Blinking is an essential biological function. When we blink, our eyelids lubricate our eyeballs with tears. This keeps the eyes moist, removes foreign bodies from the eyes such as dust and small particles, and protects the eyes against the air, wind, and other microbes.
When healing from eyelid surgery, patients may find themselves blinking less, meaning the eyes do not receive as much lubrication as they usually would. For most patients, this is a temporary side effect from the surgery and is remedied with eye drops.
Lower Tear Production
When the tissue surrounding the eyelids are inflamed post-blepharoplasty surgery, the function of the tear glands and ducts responsible for generating tears may become compromised, resulting in fewer tears being produced. Temporary fixes include eyedrops during healing from blepharoplasty, but patients suffering from chronic dry eyes may risk unnecessary further damage to tear ducts.
With this in mind, Dr. Landis recommends that patients experiencing dry eyes strongly consider the potential side-effects associated with blepharoplasty before undergoing the procedure. In some cases, depending on what your optometrist and Dr. Landis recommend, patients may be able to handle dry eyes with medication. However, other patients will be better off looking for alternative solutions to the sigs of aging that emerge around the eyes.
What Are the Alternatives for Eyelid Surgery?
Eyelid surgery is an invasive surgical procedure.
While it is highly beneficial to some patients and can provide exceptional results, as we have seen, the procedure is not suitable for everyone.
For those patients suffering from chronic dry eyes, non-surgical intervention is perhaps a better option for countering the sands of time.
In cases such as these, two of the best non-surgical, minimally invasive options available are Botox and dermal fillers.
Botox is an effective treatment to frown lines, crows’ feet, and other signs of aging surrounding the eyes. It is semi-temporary, with effects that last between three to six months. Treatment sessions can be as short as fifteen minutes with minimal amounts of downtime associated with the treatment.
Dermal fillers provide volume and plumpness to sunken areas around the eyes. Like Botox, the results are not permanent. However, the short treatment times and rapid recovery rates make these treatments ideal for patients concerned about dry eyes being worsened by blepharoplasty.
Eyelid surgery in Plymouth, MN
Eyelid surgery, or blepharoplasty, can offer profound anti-aging results to the right candidates. In addition to blepharoplasty surgery, there are other fantastic treatment options available. For expert advice and guidance in restoring a youthful appearance to your upper face, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. George Landis’s team at 952 562 5940 or to fill out his online form today and arrange your personal consultation.