• upper eyelids;
  • normal development;
  • staged human embryos;
  • fetuses


In this study, we examined the development of the upper eyelids to provide a basic understanding of gross anatomical structures and information relative to mechanisms of congenital anomalies in the upper eyelids. We studied the upper eyelids by external and histological observation in 48 human embryos and in fetuses from 5 to 36 weeks postfertilization. The upper eyelid fold began to develop at Stage 18. Upper and lower eyelids fused from the lateral cantus at Stage 22, and fusion was complete by 9 weeks of development. Mesenchymal condensations forming the orbital part of the orbicularis oculi (OO), tarsal plate, and the eyelashes and their appendages, were first seen at Week 9. Definite muscle structures of the upper eyelid, such as the orbital part of the OO and the levator palpebrae superioris and its aponeurosis, and the Müller's muscle were observed at 12 and 14 weeks, respectively. In addition, orbital septum, arterial arcade and orbital fat pad, and tarsal gland (TG) were apparent at 12, 14, and 18 weeks, respectively. Opening of the palpebral fissure was observed at Week 20. In addition, we defined the directional orientation between the levator aponeurosis and orbital septum and the growth pattern of the TG. Our results will be helpful in understanding the normal development of the upper eyelid and the origins of upper eyelid birth defects. Anat Rec, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.