June 16th, 2013 Miguel A. Delgado Jr, MD
San Francisco, CA-It has been said, “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. When communicating with other people, we almost always have eye contact. Our eyes may be our most important feature. With facial aging, the eyes are usually the first to show signs with fine lines and wrinkles at the corners, commonly called “crow’s feet”. For years now Botox has been the most popular injectable for correcting “crow’s feet”, even with patients in their twenties.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Botox and Dysport saw an increase of 8% in 2012 and eyelid surgery saw an increase of 4%. Eyelid surgery was the third most popular cosmetic surgery performed.
As we continue to age the skin starts to lose its elasticity, and along with sun exposure can result in drooping and sagging skin of the lower eyelids. The eyes may age well before the rest of the face, and may cause many to seek an eyelid lift at an early age. Whether eyelid surgery is done at an early age or along with a facelift (or both); it remains one of the most sought after procedures.
Generally we refer to eyelid surgery as blepharoplasty, which could mean upper and/or lower eyelids. For lower lid surgery specifically, there are two popular procedures, canthopexy and canthoplasty. Often the terms are used interchangeably, but they are very different.
“Pexy” means to fixate or make secure, and “plasty” means to restore, repair or replace. With both procedures, the goal is to strengthen the tissues at the lateral canthus, or the outer corner of the eyes, to give better support to the lower eyelids.
Canthoplasty is a surgical procedure whereby the surgeon actually cuts the canthal tendon, which holds the lower eyelid in place, makes it tighter and may remove excess skin, as well. Then the tendon is reattached to the orbital bone. This procedure changes the shape of the eye to more of a cat-like appearance.
Canthopexy is a less invasive procedure where the tendon is not cut, but the surgeon uses sutures to tighten it and stabilize it without reconstructing it. It does ot change the shape of the eye.
These procedures can also correct ectropion. Ectropion is where the lower eyelid is gaping open; this can cause dry eyes and eye irritation that may lead to infection. This gaping of the lower eyelid can be caused by trauma or previous surgeries, inflammation, thyroid eye disease or facial nerve palsy.
For patients with ectropion and dry eyes, it is possible medical insurance will cover the corrective surgical procedure, but if it is for cosmetic purposes it will not be covered. Similar to upper eyelid surgery for the patient with redundant skin that affects vision, which is also a situation that insurance may cover. Your surgeon will be able to advise you on your possible approval for surgery with your health insurance.
Eyelid surgery can be done with local anesthesia or with IV sedation. If it is combined with other procedures such as a brow lift or facelift, then it would most likely be done under general anesthesia.
As with any surgery there are some risks involved. For canthoplasty, the junction of the upper and lower eyelids may become rounded or retracted and may result in what is known as “round eye” or “scleral show” where the lower lid is pulled down and the white part of the eye below the iris shows. If overdone, the result may be an unnatural upward slant to the eyes.
Canthopexy, on the other hand, is a much less invasive procedure and not subject to the same risks as canthoplasty. Although complications are rare with these procedures especially if you have a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and Board Certified Anesthesiologist, the possible risks and complications as with any surgery are; bleeding, infection, and complications with anesthesia.