INVESTIGATES: ‘It’s changed my life:’ new non-surgical treatment helps patients with drooping eyelids

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — During the pandemic, masks have become a safety necessity. They have also made many of us more conscious of the aesthetics of our eyes.

Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole investigates an eye disorder more adults are becoming aware of and the new way it can be treated.

“I noticed over time that I was having to lift my eyebrows, just to kind of widen that eye a little bit,” Daniela Gaylord explained.

Gaylord said the first time she realized she had “drooping eyelid” was when she was as young as 8 or 9 years old.

>>More Action News Jax Investigates

“I’ve noticed that over time that, you know, I’ve had to do that just in order to see a little bit better,” Gaylord said.

“Drooping eyelid,” formally known as ptosis, is a disorder Dr. Sarah Darbandi said you can be born with, can come from a medical condition, or even result from surgery or getting Botox treatments.

Darbandi is a cornea specialist and director of aesthetic services at Bowden Eye & Associates.

“With all the repeated use of their eyelids, constantly lifting, it’s just like when you overuse any muscle: at some point it gets tired and it can’t do that lift anymore by itself,” Dr. Darbandi told Action News Jax.

The eyelid may droop just a little bit, or it may droop enough to block your vision completely.

Courtney Cole: “Do you think that the pandemic and how it’s changed our way of life ... do you think that it has affected your condition in any way?”

“You know, being on the computer more, using my eyes more, being more tablet-based or phone-based ... Yeah, I feel like, you know, the more I’m tired, the more that I noticed the droopier lid, um, especially if my eyes are dry,” Gaylord said.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about 11.5% of adults have droopy eyelid (ptosis), but they rarely know that it’s an actual disorder and they can get treatment for it.

Courtney Cole: “What was the moment where you knew like, OK, ‘I need to go talk to my doctor about this. I need to go see if there is treatment for this?’”

“You know, honestly, I didn’t know to go to the doctor. I just went in for my regular exams. Until more recent, one of the technicians at the office brought it to my attention that there is something out there that can be done for it. And I, as soon as I heard about it, I was all for it,” Gaylord shared.

She is being treated with eyedrop Upneeq, which is the first drug approved by the FDA to treat ptosis.

It’s also an alternative to having to go under the knife.

Dr. Darbandi showed us, on Gaylord, how it works.

If you press “play” on the story about, you [’l see we recorded her eyes before and after, so we can show you the difference, side-by-side.

“It has this special ingredient that basically, just a clear eye drop, it goes in your eye. And it works on a muscle called Mueller’s muscle. That’s underneath the upper eyelid and it basically raises the eyelid two or three millimeters,” said Darbandi.

The doctor told Cole she’d treated close to 100 patients with the eyedrop at the time of the interview.

Courtney Cole: “How many people were you treating for ptosis before the pandemic versus now?”

“I’d say there’s probably been at least a 20, 30% increase,” Darbandi responded.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, between 1%-5% of patients participating in clinical trials experienced mild side effects — including dry eye, eye irritation or redness, blurred vision and headache.

Gaylord said she hasn’t experienced any so far.

“It’s changed my life, that I’ve noticed how significant of a change, a difference it does make,” said Gaylord.

She told Cole she’s even been able to convince her mom to get the treatment, too.

Local News: Tristyn Bailey case: Juvenile law expert questions murder suspect Aiden Fucci’s past

“Now the first thing I did, I said, ‘mom, look at the eye. You can see it.’ So she was surprised as well!” exclaimed Gaylord.

When Cole asked Darbandi if there were other ways to treat ptosis, she said that besides the eye drop and surgery, nothing else can be done.

“It’s an anatomical change that you really can’t correct any other way,” Darbandi explained.

According to the National Stroke Association, forcing your eyelids to “work out” every hour may improve eyelid droop.