Thyroid Eye Disease, A Far Reaching Autoimmune Condition

What Causes Thyroid Eye Disease

Do you or someone you know have thyroid disease? Thyroid disease is an autoimmune condition that affects the function of the thyroid gland. Causes are still unknown, but it is thought an abnormal immune response, producing too much of too little of the thyroid hormone, is the culprit. The result of producing too much or too little of thyroid hormone is inflammation of the eye, and can result in something like a permanent stare. It’s important that patients with thyroid disease have eye exams on a regular basis to monitor for changes in their eyes. The effects of thyroid disease can be far reaching for the body and our eyes are a window to spotting problems elsewhere in the body.

How Thyroid Disease Effects The Eyes

When it comes to the eyes, thyroid eye disease is most commonly seen in patient’s with Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease develops when you have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

Inflammation and swelling in the soft tissues and muscles can occur around the eyes, causing the eyes to protrude or bulge. This condition is called exophthalmos, or proptosis, and can occur in one or both of the eyes. The protrusion of the eye can make it difficult for the eyelid to close completely, therefore not giving your eye the proper protection that it needs. In more severe cases the swelling of the eye muscles could cause pressure on the optic nerve, resulting in possible permanent loss of vision.

Symptoms of Thyroid Eye Disease

Symptoms may identify as dry, gritty, irritated eyes, restricted eye movement and in some cases even double vision. You may also notice that one or both of your eyes protrude or your eyelids are unable to close completely.

Thyroid Eye Disease Treatment

Treatment options can include eye drops or ointment to help with the eye irritation. In some cases the person may need to be treated with oral steroids to help with swelling behind the eyes. There are some instances that may even require surgery.
As mentioned above, all patients with thyroid disease need to see their ophthalmologist or optometrist on a regular basis. Our doctors here at Fisher-Swale-Nicholson Eye Center will keep your endocrinologist or general practitioner updated on any ocular findings as well as any recommended treatment. 

If you have questions about your eyes or it’s time for your eye exam call us at 815-932-2020.