Levator palpebrae superioris

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; it does not insert on the globe and therefore does not produce eye movements. It is mostly composed of skeletal muscle but there are some smooth muscle fibers (the superior tarsal muscle or ller's muscle) under sympathetic control.


  • origin: inferior part of the lesser wing of the sphenoid bone in the posterior superior aspect of the orbit, just above 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 syndrome, due to injury or pathology of the cervical sympathetic chain, can lead to reduced sympathetic innervation of the muscle and cause ptosis. There are usually other signs of Horner syndrome present to help differentiate other causes of ptosis
  • oculomotor nerve palsy is another cause of ptosis
Anatomy: Head and neck
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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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Cases and figures

  • Lateral view of t...
    Figure 1: anatomy of the eye and extraocular muscles
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