Men are more likely than women to suffer eyelid droop as they age, scientists have discovered.
The researchers, from the Rotterdam Eye Hospital, took side and front view photographs of the eyes of 256 people between the ages of 12 and 88.
They found that after the age of 35, the lower eyelid started to sag, the effect of which was twice as great in men as women. Sagging is caused by the increased laxity of eyelid tissues with age. It may also be related to a loss of fat around the eye socket.
Researcher Dr Willem van den Bosch said eyelid droop was associated with two painful conditions.
Inward rotation of the eyelid, or entropion, leads to the eyelashes rubbing against the surface of the eye, the cornea. This can lead to severe irritation of the eye, and to corneal damage. Outward rotation of the eyelid, or ectropion, also leads to irritation, both of the eye and the eyelid. As the tear duct is no longer in contact with the surface of the eye, there is also no way for the eye to remove tears easily.
Corrective surgery involves tightening the eyelid, but this can cause problems as the eyelid also shortens horizontally with age. The researchers say the next step is to study whether men suffer more frequently from lower eyelid disorders. The Dutch study also found that forehead wrinkles drag up the position of the eyebrows, the effect of which was more noticeable in men as eyebrows are around 2.5 mm higher in women to begin with.