Levator palpebrae superioris

Dr Craig Hacking et al.

The levator palpebrae superioris muscle is a small muscle of the superior orbit that elevates and retracts the upper eyelid. It is not part of the extra-ocular muscles as it does not insert on the globe and therefore does not porduce eye movements. It is mostly composed of skeletal muscle but there are some smooth muscle fibres (the superior tarsal muscle or Muller's muscle) which is under sympathetic control.


  • origin: inferior part of the lesser wing of the sphenoid bone in the posterior superior aspect of the orbit, just about the optic canal opening and tendinous ring
  • insertion: superior tarsal plate and skin of the upper eyelid
  • innervation: superior branch of the oculomotor nerve (CN III) including sympathetics to smooth muscle portion
  • action: elevates and retracts the upper eyelid

Clinical significance

  • Horner's syndrome, due to injury or pathology of the cervical sympathetic chain, can reduced sympathetic innervation of the muscle and cause ptosis. There are usually other signs of Horner's syndrome present to help differentiate other cuases of ptosis.
  • oculomotor nerve palsy is another cause of ptosis

Head and neck anatomy
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Article Information

rID: 51989
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • superior tarsal muscle
  • Muller's muscle
  • Muller muscle

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