Thyroid eye disease (TED), also known as Graves’ eye disease or Graves’ ophthalmopathy, is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune cells attack its own healthy organs such as the thyroid gland. There are over a million patients diagnosed with thyroid eye disease. Find out more about this autoimmune disorder!
Thyroid Eye Disease | What You Need to Know
What is Thyroid Eye Disease?
Thyroid eye disease is usually a result of hyperthyroidism. This state of the thyroid gland in a hypermetabolic state can cause multiple symptoms such as:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Excessive sweating
- Weight loss
- High blood pressure
- Heat intolerance
- Hair loss or change in the quality of hair
- Eye muscle/fat expansion (inflammation)
Grave’s disease and thyroid eye disease are two separate autoimmune disorders with their own sets of treatment. Let’s take a closer, more detailed look at thyroid eye disease with the need to know information and symptoms of this autoimmune disorder.
Symptoms of Grave’s Ophthalmopathy
One of the top symptoms of thyroid eye disease is expansion or inflammation of the muscle and fat around the eye. This inflammation causes the following:
- Pain and redness
- Puffiness on the eyelids and/or underneath the eyes
- Bulging eyes
- Dry eyes/irritation: occurs when you cannot completely close your eyelids due to bulging
Prolonged inflammation can cause the following:
- Increased/excessive pressure: within the eye socket
- A severe headache: can worsen with eye movements such as blinking
- Decreased vision: caused by pressure on the optic nerve
- Double vision: can be caused by prolonged restrictions on eye movement
Diagnosis of Grave’s Eye Disease
If you are experiencing symptoms of thyroid eye disease, you may need to see an endocrinologist (a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hormone imbalances) and/or an ophthalmologist (eye doctor).
If your doctor suspects Graves’ eye disease, they may be able to diagnose you with a standardized eye exam. However, in some cases, additional tests may be required for a complete diagnosis of thyroid eye disease, such as:
- Blood tests: to check your thyroid hormone levels
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan: X-rays are taken from various angles then placed together to form a complete picture
- Magnetic resonance (MRI) scan: Will provide images with more detail using radio waves and powerful magnets
Treatment for Thyroid Eye Disease
Once you receive a complete diagnosis of Graves’ disease from your doctor, there are a number of treatments that your doctor will discuss with you, such as:
- Artificial tears, ointments, and gels: Prescribed to ease dryness associated with Graves’ eye disease.
- Prednisone: A prescription steroid that treats excessive swelling leading to double vision or possible vision loss.
- Surgery: In the rare cases in which other treatments do not work, the doctor may discuss surgery with you. The surgery will: help ease the pain, help ease pressure on the optic nerve (which may improve vision), correct the alignment of the eye muscles, help the appearance of bulging, and ensure your eyelids cover your eyes (which helps to protect them).
- Radiation therapy: Another form of treatment when other treatments may fail, in which high energy X-rays are aimed at the eye muscles. This particular treatment is, at times, paired with a steroid treatment for optimal results.
Watch this video from But ya Don’t Look Sick to find out more about thyroid eye disease and how you can treat it!
If you suspect having Graves’ eye disease, it is important that you speak to your doctor as soon as possible. As with many thyroid-related issues, early detection is crucial for effective treatment. Here at Thyroid Symptoms, we are dedicated to bringing you back to the healthy YOU! If you ever have any questions regarding your thyroid health, we are here!
Have you been diagnosed and/or treated for thyroid (Graves’) eye disease? We would love to hear from you. Share your story with us in the comment section below.
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on November 23, 2017 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.