Sagging Eyelids? Your Age and Genetics May Be the Reason

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Sagging Eyelids? Your Age and Genetics May Be the Reason

Date of Content: May 3, 2024
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

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Overview

Ever looked in the mirror and noticed your eyelids drooping more than they used to? Eyelid sagging, also known as dermatochalasis, is a common condition that affects the appearance and function of the eyes.

Eyelid sagging occurs when the muscles responsible for lifting the eyelids weaken or the skin loses its elasticity. This can lead to a tired or aged appearance and, in severe cases, can impair vision. Various factors contribute to eyelid sagging, including aging, which is the most prevalent cause. 

While eyelid sagging is often associated with older adults, it can affect people of all ages, including children. Understanding the underlying causes and potential treatments is essential for managing and mitigating the impact of eyelid sagging on both appearance and eye health.

What is Eyelid Sagging?

Age-related eyelid sagging or drooping, in the forms of dermatochalasis or ptosis, are common conditions that occur as part of the natural aging process. As people age, the skin and muscles around the eyes undergo changes that lead to the drooping of the upper eyelids. The primary factors contributing to this condition include the weakening of the levator muscles, which are responsible for lifting the eyelids, and the loss of skin elasticity due to decreased collagen production.

The skin around the eyes is particularly delicate and thin, making it more susceptible to the effects of aging. Over time, the connective tissues that support the eyelids can stretch and weaken, causing the eyelids to droop. This can give the face a tired or aged appearance and, in more severe cases, can obstruct vision.

Genetics plays a significant role in age-related eyelid sagging. If your parents or close relatives experienced ptosis, you are more likely to develop it as well. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as prolonged sun exposure, smoking, and poor skincare can accelerate the aging process and exacerbate eyelid sagging. For example, UV radiation from the sun can break down collagen and elastin fibers in the skin, hastening its loss of firmness and elasticity. Understanding the interplay between genetics and lifestyle can empower individuals to take proactive steps in managing age-related eyelid sagging.

What Causes Eyelid Sagging?

Eyelid sagging can stem from a variety of causes. Understanding these causes helps individuals grasp how genetics, lifestyle, and health conditions can impact their appearance and eye health.

  • Aging: The most common cause of eyelid sagging is aging. As people get older, the levator muscles, which lift the eyelids, can weaken. Additionally, the skin around the eyes loses elasticity due to decreased collagen production, leading to droopy eyelids.
  • Genetics: Genetics plays a significant role in eyelid sagging. If your parents or grandparents had ptosis, you’re more likely to experience it. This genetic predisposition affects the structure and strength of the eyelid muscles and skin.
  • Medical Conditions: Several medical conditions can cause or exacerbate eyelid sagging. Myasthenia gravis, a disease that disrupts the communication between nerves and muscles, often leads to eyelid sagging. Neurological disorders, like Horner’s syndrome, and systemic conditions such as diabetes can also weaken the eyelid muscles.
  • Trauma and Surgery: Trauma to the eye or surrounding area can damage the muscles or nerves responsible for eyelid movement. Similarly, previous eye surgeries can sometimes result in ptosis, either due to muscle damage or postoperative complications.
  • Lifestyle Factors: While less common, certain lifestyle factors can contribute to eyelid sagging. Chronic rubbing of the eyes, poor diet, and smoking can accelerate the loss of skin elasticity and muscle tone, leading to droopy eyelids.

Understanding these causes highlights the multifaceted nature of eyelid sagging. Genetics, health conditions, and lifestyle choices all interplay to influence whether someone might develop ptosis. Awareness of these factors can help individuals take proactive steps in managing their eye health and appearance.

Is Eyelid Sagging Genetic?

To uncover genetic risk factors for eyelid sagging, a 2018 genome-wide association (GWAS) study was conducted with 502 unrelated Caucasian women from the Paris region, aged between 44 and 70 years old, with an average age of 57.6 years. The severity of their eyelid sagging was categorized into six levels by a dermatologist using standardized facial photographs.

Taking into account potential risk factors such as age and smoking habits, this study identified significant genetic links to eyelid sagging. Specifically, two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on chromosome 10, rs16927253 (P = 7.07 × 10^-10) and rs4746957 (P = 1.06 × 10^-8), were strongly associated with the severity of eyelid sagging. The rs16927253-T and rs4746957-A alleles showed a protective effect against eyelid sagging. These SNPs are found in the MACROH2A2 (a.k.a. H2AFY2) gene, which is part of the H2A histone family and are also near the AIFM2 gene, which induces apoptosis. 

Additionally, SNPs near the type XIII collagen COL13A1 gene on chromosome 10 and the ADAMTS18 gene on chromosome 16 were identified with a false discovery rate below 0.25, suggesting they might also play a role in eyelid sagging severity. This study highlights several genes that could be important in understanding the genetic factors behind eyelid sagging.

An older 2014 study aimed to identify both non-genetic and genetic risk factors for sagging eyelids. Researchers examined 5,578 unrelated Dutch Europeans from the Rotterdam Study and 2,186 twins from the UK Adult Twin Registry (TwinsUK). Participants’ eyelid sagging was assessed using digital photographs, with severity classified into four categories.

Key findings showed that 17.8% of the Rotterdam Study participants had moderate to severe dermatochalasis. Significant risk factors included age, male sex, lighter skin color, and higher body mass index (BMI). Current smoking was also borderline significant. The study estimated that 61% of the risk for sagging eyelids was due to genetics, based on data from 1,052 twin pairs from TwinsUK, where 15.6% showed dermatochalasis.

A GWAS involving participants from both cohorts identified a significant protective effect of the C-allele of rs11876749  in the DLGAP1 gene, near the TGIF1 gene, which is linked to skin aging. This genetic variant showed a recessive protective effect against sagging eyelids (P = 1.7 × 10^-8). 

The study concluded that, in addition to aging, factors such as male sex, genetic variants, lighter skin color, high BMI, and possibly smoking are involved in the development of sagging eyelids. Dermatochalasis is typically observed in middle-aged or older adults, leading to cosmetic concerns and potentially serious issues like visual field loss and headaches.

What Other Factors Can Affect Eyelid Sagging?

Eyelid sagging is influenced by various environmental factors that can accelerate the aging process and exacerbate the condition. Understanding these factors can help individuals take preventive measures to maintain their eyelid health. Here are the key environmental factors that can affect eyelid sagging:

  1. Sun Exposure: Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is one of the most significant environmental contributors to eyelid sagging. UV rays penetrate the skin and damage collagen and elastin fibers, which are essential for maintaining skin elasticity and firmness. Over time, this breakdown leads to thinner skin and increased sagging around the eyes. To protect against UV damage, it’s important to wear sunscreen with a high SPF, use sunglasses that offer UV protection and wear hats to shield the face from direct sunlight.
  2. Pollution: Air pollution, particularly in urban environments, exposes the skin to harmful particles and free radicals that can accelerate aging. Pollutants such as ozone, particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide can cause oxidative stress, leading to inflammation and the degradation of skin proteins. This results in the loss of skin elasticity and firmness, contributing to eyelid sagging. Regular cleansing to remove pollutants and using skincare products with antioxidants can help mitigate these effects.
  3. Smoking: Smoking is a major environmental factor that accelerates the aging process, including the development of eyelid sagging. The chemicals in tobacco smoke cause vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow and depriving the skin of essential nutrients and oxygen. Additionally, smoking increases the production of free radicals, which damage collagen and elastin fibers. Studies have shown that smokers are more likely to develop wrinkles and sagging skin compared to non-smokers. Quitting smoking can significantly improve skin health and slow down the aging process.
  4. Diet and Nutrition: Diet plays a crucial role in skin health. A diet high in processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats can accelerate aging and contribute to eyelid sagging. Conversely, a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can support collagen production and maintain skin elasticity. Key nutrients include vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, berries, and leafy greens), vitamin E (found in nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables), and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts). Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water also helps maintain skin moisture and elasticity.
  5. Sleep Habits: Poor sleep habits can contribute to eyelid sagging and other signs of aging. During sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, including the skin. Lack of sleep can lead to increased stress levels and the production of cortisol, a hormone that breaks down collagen. Ensuring adequate, quality sleep helps the skin to recover and maintain its firmness. It’s recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night and practice good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a restful environment.
  6. Facial Expressions: Frequent or repetitive facial expressions can lead to the formation of wrinkles and sagging skin around the eyes. For example, squinting, frowning, or smiling can cause the skin to fold and crease. Over time, these expressions can contribute to the weakening of the skin and muscles around the eyes. Wearing sunglasses to reduce squinting and practicing facial relaxation techniques can help minimize these effects.
  7. Stress: Chronic stress affects the body in numerous ways, including the health of the skin. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, which can break down collagen and elastin fibers. This not only accelerates the aging process but also leads to the formation of wrinkles and sagging skin. Managing stress through activities like exercise, meditation, and mindfulness can help protect skin health.

By understanding and addressing these environmental factors, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their skin and potentially delay the onset of eyelid sagging. Combining a healthy lifestyle with good skincare practices can make a significant difference in maintaining youthful and firm eyelids.

Is Eyelid Sagging Permanent?

Age-related eyelid sagging is generally a permanent condition due to the natural aging process. While the condition itself is permanent, there are effective treatments available to address and manage eyelid sagging. 

Non-surgical options include the use of skin-firming creams and treatments that can temporarily tighten the skin around the eyes. For a more long-lasting solution, surgical procedures like blepharoplasty can remove excess skin and tighten the muscles, significantly improving the appearance of sagging eyelids.

Can You Prevent Eyelid Sagging?

Preventing age-related eyelid sagging entirely is not possible due to the natural aging process and genetic predisposition. However, there are several strategies to slow down the progression and minimize its effects. Here are some scientifically-backed methods to help maintain firm and youthful-looking eyelids:

  1. Protect Against UV Damage: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is a significant factor in skin aging. UV rays break down collagen and elastin, leading to sagging skin. Wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 30, applying it around the eyes, and using sunglasses that block UV rays can protect the delicate skin of the eyelids from sun damage.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Diet: Nutrition plays a crucial role in skin health. A diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals supports collagen production and skin elasticity. Key nutrients include.
  3. Vitamin C: Found in citrus fruits, berries, and leafy greens, it helps in collagen synthesis.
  4. Vitamin E: Present in nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables, protects skin from oxidative stress
  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, they help maintain skin hydration and elasticity. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is also essential for keeping the skin supple.
  6. Avoid Smoking: Smoking accelerates skin aging by reducing blood flow and depleting essential nutrients, causing the skin to lose its elasticity. The chemicals in tobacco smoke also increase the production of free radicals, which damage skin cells. Quitting smoking can significantly improve skin health and slow down the aging process.
  7. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Adequate sleep is vital for skin regeneration. During sleep, the body repairs and regenerates skin cells, including those around the eyes. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night and practice good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a restful environment.
  8. Use Skincare Products: Incorporating anti-aging skin care products can help maintain skin firmness. Look for products containing:
  9. Manage Stress: Chronic stress increases cortisol levels, which can break down collagen and elastin. Managing stress through activities like yoga, meditation, and regular exercise can help protect skin health.
  10. Facial Exercises: Facial exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the eyes. Gentle exercises, such as raising the eyebrows and holding for a few seconds or lightly tapping the area around the eyes, can improve muscle tone and skin elasticity.

By incorporating these habits into daily life, individuals can help slow the progression of age-related eyelid sagging. While genetics play a significant role, lifestyle choices and preventive measures can make a considerable difference in maintaining youthful-looking eyes.

Ways to Treat Eyelid Sagging

Treating age-related eyelid sagging, or ptosis, involves a range of options from non-invasive therapies to surgical interventions. Here are some effective ways to address this condition, based on scientific evidence and expert recommendations:

Topical Treatments

Using anti-aging skincare products can help improve the appearance of sagging eyelids. Key ingredients include:

  • Retinoids: These vitamin A derivatives stimulate collagen production and enhance skin cell turnover, leading to firmer, smoother skin. Retinoids are available in prescription forms like tretinoin and over-the-counter options like retinol.
  • Peptides: Peptides are short chains of amino acids that signal the skin to produce more collagen and elastin. Products containing peptides can help improve skin firmness and elasticity around the eyes.
  • Hyaluronic Acid: This powerful humectant retains moisture, plumping the skin and reducing the appearance of sagging. It helps maintain skin hydration, making the eyelids look smoother and more youthful.

Non-Surgical Procedures

Several non-surgical treatments can effectively address eyelid sagging:

  • Botox: Botulinum toxin injections can lift the brow and reduce the appearance of drooping eyelids by temporarily paralyzing the muscles that pull the eyelids down. This creates a more lifted and youthful appearance.
  • Dermal Fillers: Hyaluronic acid-based fillers can add volume to the area around the eyes, reducing the appearance of sagging. They work by filling in hollows and supporting the skin structure.
  • Laser Therapy: Laser treatments, such as fractional CO2 lasers, can stimulate collagen production and tighten the skin around the eyes. These procedures help improve skin texture and firmness.
  • Radiofrequency (RF) Therapy: RF treatments use energy waves to heat the deep layers of the skin, stimulating collagen production and tightening the skin. This non-invasive procedure can be effective in reducing eyelid sagging.

Surgical Options

For more pronounced sagging, surgical intervention may be necessary:

  • Blepharoplasty: This is the most common surgical procedure for treating eyelid sagging. During blepharoplasty, excess skin, fat, and muscle are removed or repositioned to create a more youthful appearance. The procedure can be performed on the upper eyelids, lower eyelids, or both. It not only improves aesthetics but can also enhance vision if sagging eyelids obstruct the field of view.
  • Ptosis Surgery: If the sagging is due to muscle weakness, ptosis surgery can correct the underlying muscle dysfunction. This involves tightening or reattaching the levator muscle, which lifts the eyelid, resulting in a more open and alert eye appearance.

Lifestyle Modifications

Certain lifestyle changes can support the health of the skin around the eyes:

  • Healthy Diet: Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can support skin health. Foods high in vitamin C, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial for maintaining skin elasticity.
  • Sun Protection: Protecting the skin from UV damage is crucial. Wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats can help prevent further sagging by reducing collagen breakdown.
  • Avoid Smoking: Smoking accelerates skin aging by decreasing blood flow and depleting essential nutrients. Quitting smoking can improve skin health and slow down the aging process.

Manage Chronic Conditions

Chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol can increase the risk of hearing loss. Managing these conditions through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular medical check-ups can help prevent or delay the onset of age-related hearing loss.

Regular Skincare Routine

Adopting a consistent skincare routine can help maintain the firmness of the eyelid skin:

  • Cleansing: Gently cleanse the skin around the eyes to remove dirt and pollutants that can contribute to skin aging.
  • Moisturizing: Use a hydrating eye cream to keep the skin around the eyes moisturized and supple.
  • Antioxidants: Incorporate products with antioxidants, such as vitamin C serums, to protect the skin from free radical damage.

Facial Exercises

Facial exercises can strengthen the muscles around the eyes, potentially reducing sagging. Simple exercises, such as raising the eyebrows and holding for a few seconds or gently tapping the area around the eyes, can help tone the muscles and improve skin elasticity.

By combining these treatments and lifestyle changes, individuals can effectively manage age-related eyelid sagging. While genetics play a significant role, proactive measures can significantly enhance the appearance and health of the eyelids.

LifeDNA’s Age-Related Eyelid Sagging Trait Report

Discover the key to maintaining youthful eyes with LifeDNA’s Eyelid Sagging Trait Report. As we age, understanding how our genetics influence the aging process becomes crucial. LifeDNA offers a comprehensive Aging Report that delves into your unique genetic profile, helping you understand your body’s needs as you grow older.

LifeDNA’s Eyelid Sagging Trait Report is part of an extensive suite of over 200 trait reports available under various categories, including NutritionWellness, Vitamins and Supplements, Fitness, Personality and Cognition, Sleep, and Skincare. Our scientifically backed insights provide personalized recommendations to help you tackle eyelid sagging and other age-related changes.

By availing of LifeDNA’s reports, you gain access to tailored advice based on your genetic makeup. Whether you want to improve your skin health, optimize your nutrition, enhance your fitness routine, or understand your sleep patterns, LifeDNA has you covered. Our Premium Reports, like the AgingReport and Methylation Genes Report, offer in-depth analysis and actionable insights that empower you to take control of your wellness journey.

LifeDNA makes it easy to start your path to better health. With personalized recommendations, you can make informed decisions about your skincare routine, dietary choices, and overall wellness. Our reports highlight the importance of genetics in your daily habits and lifestyle, guiding you to achieve optimal health.

Begin your wellness journey today with LifeDNA’s plans. Embrace a future where you understand your body better and make choices that align with your genetic predispositions. Get started with LifeDNA and take the first step towards a healthier, more vibrant you. Explore our range of reports and see how your unique genetic profile can shape a better tomorrow.

Summary

  • Eyelid sagging, in the forms of dermatochalasis and ptosis, affects both appearance and eye function, often leading to a tired look and impaired vision.
  • Aging is a primary cause, as eyelid muscles weaken and skin loses elasticity.
  • While common in older adults, sagging eyelids can affect any age group, including children.
  • Genetic predisposition plays a significant role in eyelid sagging.
  • Lifestyle factors like sun exposure, smoking, and poor skincare can accelerate eyelid sagging.
  • Medical conditions such as myasthenia gravis and neurological disorders can also cause ptosis.
  • Trauma and surgery around the eyes can lead to eyelid sagging due to muscle damage.
  • Environmental factors like pollution and poor diet contribute to the aging of the skin around the eyes.
  • Protective measures include using sunscreen, maintaining a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and ensuring adequate sleep.
  • Genetic studies have identified SNPs near certain genes that influence eyelid sagging severity.
  • Non-surgical treatments include skin-firming creams, Botox, dermal fillers, laser therapy, and radiofrequency therapy.
  • Surgical options like blepharoplasty and ptosis surgery offer more permanent solutions to severe eyelid sagging.
  • A consistent skincare routine and facial exercises can help maintain skin firmness around the eyes.
  • Understanding genetic and environmental factors can help individuals manage and prevent eyelid sagging effectively.

References

  1. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1212294-overview?form=fpf
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-aging-eye-when-to-worry-about-eyelid-problems#:~:text=Ptosis.,can%20also%20cause%20this%20condition.
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/eyelid-drooping
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK500000/#:~:text=Horner%20syndrome%20is%20a%20rare,in%20the%20sympathetic%20nerve%20supply.
  5. https://www.infocusops.com/how-droopy-eyelids-can-affect-vision/#:~:text=Causes%20of%20Droopy%20Eyelids&text=Sun%20Exposure%3A%20Sun%20exposure%20negatively,it%20can%20cause%20droopy%20eyelids.
  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/droopy-eyelid-exercises#:~:text=Resistance%20workout,while%20trying%20to%20close%20them.
  7. https://columbuseyelid.com/blog/risk-factors-for-droopy-eyelids/#:~:text=There%20are%20a%20few%20steps,making%20people%20younger%20in%20appearance.
  8. https://www.medicinenet.com/how_do_you_fix_droopy_eyelids/article.htm
  9. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-best-options-for-droopy-eyelids-circles-and-sags
  10. https://procoal.co.uk/blogs/beauty/can-you-use-retinol-on-droopy-eyelids
  11. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/blepharoplasty/about/pac-20385174#:~:text=blepharoplasty%20is%20done-,How%20blepharoplasty%20is%20done,excess%20skin%20from%20the%20eyelids.
  12. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/surgery/ptosis-surgery#:~:text=Ptosis%20surgery%20is%20an%20operation,causing%20your%20eyelid%20to%20sag.

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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.