Can Eyelid Surgery Improve Migraines?

Another hard day at the officeBlepharoplasty is a common eye surgery, especially as we age. Drooping eyelids are not only unattractive but may cause vision problems. Removing excess skin and fat from the upper and lower eyelid creates a fresher, more youthful look and restore clearer vision. New research claims that cosmetic eyelid surgery could improve more than just your appearance and vision: it could provide relief for migraine headaches.

The study was recently published online in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, involving 30 women and 5 men with an average age of 46. All 35 patients had cosmetic eyelid surgery, which involved the deactivation of specific “trigger” nerves in upper eyelid. Many doctors believe that these trigger nerves are linked to migraine headaches and by cutting the nerves, the migraines will subside (Source: US News and World Report).

This is not the first attempt to treat migraines with surgery. The other method approaches the nerves under the skin but begins at the scalp. Dr. Oren Tessler, an assistant professor of clinical surgery at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine, was part of the research team and asserts that cosmetic eyelid surgery is effective when performed on the appropriate patients. He stated, “Ninety percent of our patients had over 50 percent improvement in their migraines. After a year’s time, 51 percent had no migraines.” Dr. Tessler also pointed out that the cosmetic appearance of the upper eyelid surgery was a welcome bonus.

Not every physician would agree that trapped nerves are responsible for migraine headaches. Dr. Vincent Martin, co-director of the headache and facial pain program at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine, thinks that trapped nerves may exacerbate migraines but not necessarily cause them. More importantly, Dr. Martin disagrees with the design of the study. Since all 35 patients received cosmetic eyelid surgery, the study lacks a control group. Dr. Martin also points out that the placebo effect of surgery is extremely strong. When patients have surgery, it is a natural reaction for them to feel better simply because they received medical care.

Time will tell which doctor is correct, and both Dr. Tessler and Dr. Martin agree that more research needs to be completed. Dr. Tessler says, “Release the nerve and you remove the irritation.” Dr. Martin responds that this assertion is “theoretically plausible, but not proven.” Hopefully more research will prove Dr. Tessler’s theory. Relief of migraines with a side benefit of looking younger is a win-win situation!


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