Considering an Eyelift? One Woman's Story

Before you go under the knife, you must read this personal account. Warning: Put down your sandwich first.

By Robin Wolaner

One Year Later

So, was it worth it? It’s pretty hard to justify an eyelift financially. Mine cost $6,500, which included the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and the operating room. (Insurance usually doesn’t cover the surgery, except in rare cases when vision is obscured by drooping skin.) If I had elected to do just my lower lids, the cost would have been about $4,500. I do wish I had timed the operation differently. Bringing on the elevated level of stress while engaged in the launch of my company was foolish. I also wish I had done a few important things before the surgery, such as taking arnica, a homeopathic medicine that’s supposed to minimize bruising and inflammation. (Even if it hadn’t helped, I would have felt I’d done everything I could.) I think I should have gotten a third opinion. When I had breast cancer, I’d cut corners on choosing a doctor. I really liked the first one I interviewed, and she had an opening the next day, so I went for it, and never regretted it. But elective surgery is another matter; you can be really picky and see three or four people. And, finally, I wish, going into the surgery, I had expected the worst instead of assuming the best.

Yet, overall, I don’t regret having the procedure. To me, my eyes now look as they did 15 years ago. I doubt most of you could even tell I’ve had work done, unless you’re a keen-eyed member of The Tribe (those of us who have gone under the knife to improve our looks). Stewart and my friends all tell me I look great.

I’ve recently noticed that several of my friends who’ve already had one procedure have started to discuss the possibility of undergoing another one. This hasn’t happened to me yet and I doubt that it will — but I’m over my political resistance to cosmetic surgery.

Before, when I looked in the mirror I’d think, god, those bags look awful; should I try that new cream? Now I don’t even notice my eyes most days, so that’s a victory. Once in a while I wake up with a puffy lower lid and wish I’d never messed with nature. But there’s no going back, so I don’t dwell. I got the results I wanted: I don’t look different; I just look like a younger version of myself. And now no one mistakes me for my daughter’s grandmother.

20/20 Foresight: What You Should Know Before the Operation

Cosmetic eyelid surgery removes droopiness, pouches, bags, and wrinkles from above and below the eyes. But although almost 186,000 blepharoplasties, or blephs, were performed on over-40 women in 2007, many patients do not have a realistic notion of what they are signing up for.

"Eyelid rejuvenation is not a spa treatment," cautions Michael J. Yaremchuk, MD, clinical professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "The adjective is cosmetic or plastic, but the noun is surgery."

While the procedures are generally safe, there is at least a 5 percent risk that healing will not proceed perfectly, and in some instances patients may require a follow-up procedure or surgery, according to Mark A. Codner, MD, a clinical assistant professor of plastic surgery at Emory University.

Possible unappealing outcomes (all fixable) include lower lid malposition, in which the lower lid is pulled down for a hangdog look; chemosis, swelling of the clear membrane on the eyeball; and blepharitis, inflammation of the eyelids. Also, some patients may bruise and swell more intensely and for much longer than they expect; this is what Robin Wolaner experienced. Ideally, patients should plan to take two weeks off post-op.

What’s the worst that could happen? There’s an outside chance a woman could have a bad reaction to anesthesia. And if a hemorrhage develops behind the eye postoperatively, it could, in rare instances, cause blindness.

Protect yourself by choosing your cosmetic surgeon carefully. "Go online and find out everything you can about the doctor," suggests Alan Matarasso, MD, a clinical professor of plastic surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

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