A Real Eye-Opener

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How one cosmetic procedure also enhances vision

Over time, our eyelids naturally begin to slacken and droop, giving the appearance of tiredness or anger, and often impairing our peripheral vision at the same time. But this sagging of the eyelid, called ptosis, can be fixed by a quick and relatively simple procedure known as blepharoplasty. In about 30 minutes, less time than it takes to watch a network sitcom, a patient can experience the surgery’s life-changing effects: an air of youthful alertness and the full visual spectrum eyes are meant to receive.

“It was like an awakening,” recalls Ellen Burrell, who received a quad blepharoplasty, which focuses on both upper and lower eyelids, last year. “I didn’t know that the world was so bright.”

As a seventh-grade English teacher, Burrell worried that her students saw her as tired and irrelevant due to her drooping eyelids, so her desire for blepharoplasty was initially for cosmetic reasons. After learning that the procedure could be covered by insurance if tests showed her droopy lids also impaired her vision, she figured, “Why not? Let’s see.”

Burrell discovered that 60 percent of her peripheral vision was blocked, which meant her insurance would cover the procedure. She worked with Dr. Carl Pearl at Savannah Plastic Surgery, to restore a vivid, fully alert appearance, and at the same time enhance and improve the scope of her peripheral vision. At Savannah Plastic Surgery, the cost of an upper
lid blepharoplasty ranges from $2,000to $3,000, while a quad blepharoplasty is around $4,000 (without insurance).

But for someone like Burrell, regaining a youthful, energetic look in addition to restoring her peripheral vision, the impacts of blepharoplasty are priceless.

“There are two different groups of patients who consider blepharoplasty,” says Dr. Richard Greco, a surgeon at the Georgia Institute for Plastic Surgery. “Some need this operation for functional reasons, when the skin hangs over the eyes, something we call ‘window shading,’ where you actually have to turn your whole head to see,” he says. Others come for cosmetic reasons, to look less tired, more vibrant and younger. Of course, some patients, like Burrell, end up benefiting from both. “It’s a twofer of sorts,” Greco says.

The procedure is also relatively easy: After administering a local anesthetic, doctors make incisions at the crease of the upper eyelids to remove excess skin, and in some cases contouring muscle and fat. During a quad blepharoplasty the same is then done for the lower lids by making incisions below the lashes or inside the lid. This can be achieved without patients going completely under anesthesia, though some patients prefer to be asleep while a doctor works around their eyes.

“They’re all outpatient procedures,” explains Dr. Luke Curtsinger, who also practices at Savannah Plastic Surgery.

After the procedure, patients can go straight home to relax and ice their eyelids. “We usually have patients come back five to seven days later to take the sutures out,” Curtsinger says. “It’s a quick recovery process.” Patients must refrain from lifting, stooping and straining for two weeks, but then they’re permitted to return to their normal routines. And the best part? The procedure is almost always one and done.

“Many people worry that they’ll have to come back in for the procedure time and again, but very few people ever need another upper lid blepharoplasty,” Curtsinger says. Since it usually takes upward of 40 years for a person to accumulate enough excess skin to need this procedure, patients are generally happy with the results for the rest of their lives.

After her quad blepharoplasty, Burrell noticed how she not only looked younger, but even felt more awake and vivacious than before. Other people noticed this in her, too, and she was able to see their reactions more clearly thanks to the procedure’s eye-opening benefits. Burrell is now trying to convince her husband to undergo the surgery himself, so he can experience what it’s like to reclaim the full visual spectrum eyesight is supposed to afford us all.

Her urging doesn’t stop at her husband, either. “I really noticed a difference and would recommend it to anyone considering it,” she says. “It was a piece of cake.”

Illustration by Raquel Torinos