Thyroid eye disease (TED), also called Grave’s eye disease, is a complication that can develop from an overactive thyroid caused by the autoimmune disease, Graves’ disease.
With Grave’s disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid, causing an overactive thyroid. It’s the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. Hyperthyroid can wreak havoc on your health, leading to potentially dangerous complications like hypertension, rapid/irregular heartbeat, brittle bones and even congestive heart failure.
The eyes are not spared the ravages of thyroid disease. The inflammation that comes with Grave’s disease also attacks the eyes, bringing pressure and swelling to eye muscles, eyeballs, tear glands, eyelids and other delicate tissues. In rare cases, this pressure compresses the optic nerve, called optic neuropathy, which can lead to blindness!
This is why it’s so important to know the symptoms of TED before they become serious. While some of the early symptoms can mimic dry eye disease or other conditions, sudden changes or visual disruptions should be addressed immediately.
Thyroid Eye Disease Symptoms:
- Redness – eyes may appear bloodshot.
- Swelling – swelling of the white part of the eyeballs or unusual, pronounced puffiness around the eyes.
- Dry, gritty or teary eyes – can feel as though there is debris or a piece of grit stuck in your eye.
- Light sensitivity – Eyes become uncomfortable in bright light or sometimes with bright colors.
- Double vision – a common symptom of other eye and health issues, but taken together with other TED symptoms, can be an indicator.
- Bulging eyes – One of the more alarming symptoms of TED, it happens when inflamed muscle or fat pushes the eyeball forward.
- Eyelid retraction – Inflammation shortens the muscles that support the eyelids, causing them to retract. Along with bulging eyes, this can make it difficult for you to close your eyes completely.
- Misaligned eyes – Never wait to seek treatment if your eyes suddenly misalign.
Of course, it’s never advisable to delay care when you’re experiencing eye discomfort or a change in the appearance of your eyes. However, the need is even greater for patients with thyroid disease to heed these symptoms before they become more serious.
If you experience any of the following signs and symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:
- Sudden vision loss in all or part of the visual field
- Eye pain
- Dizziness or nausea
- Trouble seeing bright colors
Treatment for mild symptoms of thyroid eye disease may include something as simple as soothing eye drops, cold compresses to relieve swelling, steroids, or special eyeglasses to correct double vision. In severe cases, surgical options may be considered to help the eyelids close better, correct double vision or relieve the pressure on the optic nerve that could cause blindness. Speak to your doctor if you suspect you have TED, or if you may have thyroid disease.
Matossian Eye Associates performs a number of treatments for dry eye, visual disturbances and refractive errors that cause eye discomfort. Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor at your convenience by calling us at (800) 708-8800 or through our website at MatossianEye.com.