Ismael Molina needed an eyelift and it had nothing to do with vanity. His eyelids were drooping from age and impeding his vision. It was like he was wearing a visor at all times constructed out of his own skin. By the time he came to see Brad Rockwell, a plastic surgeon with University of Utah Health Care, the problem was bad enough that Molina had to turn his entire head in order to see something to the side of him. It made everyday tasks like driving difficult, and potentially dangerous.
"I couldn't see well," he said. "I had no peripheral vision."
Rockwell says Molina's complaint was not unusual. As we age, gravity takes its toll on our bodies pulling everything down. This includes the skin around our eyes. For some, the drooping causes vision problems. For others, it causes self-esteem issues.
"It's a common complaint," said Rockwell. "People come in and say 'people are always telling me how tired I look' or 'I look mad all the time.'" Whether the concern is the appearance of the eye or the function of the eyelid, the surgical remedy is the same: a blepharoplasty. This involves the removal of excess skin and fat from the eyelid. "It's an outpatient procedure done usually with general anesthetic," Rockwell said.
Blepharoplasties can be done on both the upper and lower eyelids though surgeries on the upper lids are more common. In surgeries on the lower lids the problem is usually not the result of gravity. Rather, some of the fat that surrounds and cushions our eye sockets herniates through the muscle and into the skin.
"It causes the eye to look puffy," Rockwell said. "And it can cause the skin to sag and stretch." While the majority of cosmetic surgeries are not covered by insurance, blepharoplasties are, at times, the exception to the rule. Molina was one of those exceptions due to the fact that his eyelids were impacting his vision. "I went to Moran Eye Center and they did a test to see just how limited my vision was," he said. "Then the insurance company said I could have the surgery."
The results of the surgery were immediate for Molina. Within minutes of waking up after the surgery his field of vision was almost completely restored. Rockwell says most patients have a similar experience. "They look different right away," he said.
There is still some recovery time that has to be taken though until the full effects are seen. For one to two weeks the area around the eyes will be swollen and bruised. Patients are advised not to wear makeup during this time and to rest their eyes as much as possible.
"I tell patients that after one week they are grocery-store-ready," said Rockwell. "After two weeks they should be fully recovered." As with any surgery there can be complications. Patients may suffer from dry, irritated eyes. Some patients may find that the surgeon removed too much skin from their eye, causing an unpleasant appearance or in extreme cases difficulty closing the eyes. This is why it is important to research surgeons before undergoing a procedure like a blepharoplasty.
It has been almost two months since Molina had his surgery, and he's very happy with the work Rockwell did on his eyes. "It changed my life. I can see everything," he said. "I feel like I was born again."
To learn more about blepharoplasty and what University of Utah Health can do for you, click here.