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Eyelids can go under the knife

Even when she slept soundly for 10 hours, she looked like she had tossed and turned all night. Or worse. “I had that hungover look. At work, one person in particular would always say, ‘Boy, you must have had a heckuva night last night.’ ”

She inherited the baggy eyes from her father and grandmother. “I had horrible bags under my eyes and fatty deposits on top of my lids, so I almost had a lizard look. I got tired of it.”

Marcy (not her real name) was 33 when she had eyelid surgery, or blepharoplasty, a procedure that removes fat, excess skin and muscle from the upper and lower eyelids.

Her parents and friends worried about her motives and expectations. They had reason. “It was an unhappy time in my life, and part of me was hoping that my life would be better. Common sense told me that I wasn’t going to look like Sophia Loren, but there was that hope that I would.”

She thought about other things she could do with the money. A new car, maybe. A nice trip. “Nobody would criticize me if I got a new car. My parents wanted me to go on a trip with them. I had to think, would I rather have a new car? Would I rather take that trip?

“No. I wanted this surgery.”

Last year, blepharoplasty was the fourth most popular plastic surgery performed nationally on both sexes, accounting for 246,633 procedures.

According to 2002 figures from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, eyelid surgery costs from $1,500 to $7,000. The average total cost for upper and lower lids is $4,000.

Many patients shave operating room and sedation fees by combining the operation with face-lifts, brow-lifts and other facial surgery. Blepharoplasty won’t fix crow’s feet or other wrinkles, dark circles or sagging brows, so patients must fix those problems with other procedures.

Blepharoplasty incisions follow the natural lines and creases of the eyelids. Scars eventually fade to a barely discernible white line.

Working through the incisions, the surgeon detaches skin from fatty tissue and muscle, extracts the excess fat, often trims sagging skin and muscle, then closes the cuts with tiny sutures.

Patients generally remember little about the surgery except for a slight tugging.

A wave of doubt washed over Marcy when the bandages came off. “I wasn’t expecting to be so bruised. I thought, ‘Oh, vanity, what have I done?’.” The feeling passed quickly, however, and she learned to laugh at the absurdity of her appearance. “I had my parents take a picture of me. I still have it. I look like I was on the losing side of a fight with Ali.”

She took a week off from work and wore sunglasses when she returned. Reactions to her recuperation taught her a lot, she said. “When people would ask what was wrong, I would just say I’d had cosmetic surgery. They either left it at that, or they would comment about something they’d like to have done.

“One colleague wanted me to take my glasses off so he could see. When I refused, he leaned over and lifted my glasses off. He said, ‘I don’t think you got your money’s worth.’ I was stunned. He said he didn’t approve of our insurance paying for cosmetic surgery and went to tell the boss. Our insurance did not pay for it.”

Insurance rarely pays for elective surgery, but if the condition hampers vision, costs might be partially or fully covered.

Marcy noted a dramatic improvement within two weeks. Within a month to six weeks, she fully appreciated what the surgery had done for her.

She’s considering a repeat procedure on her upper lids when they start to droop. “The bags, the fatty deposits, once they’re gone, they don’t grow back. But you may have to keep doing the lids.”

To contact staff writer Sandy Wells, use e-mail or call 348-5173.


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