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What is Thyroid Eye Disease?

Thyroid eye disease is a symptom of a general thyroid disease. This is an autoimmune disorder that causes a hormone imbalance and it impairs the body’s ability to recognize its own tissues. You should schedule a consultation with a doctor if any of the below applies to you. At SightMD, we offer complete treatment for thyroid eye disease. Working in conjunction with your primary care physician for comprehensive disease management.

Symptoms of Thyroid Eye Disease

Thyroid disease often occurs when hormone levels become imbalanced. The body can react by attacking its own muscles and connective tissues causing inflammation and swelling in the eyes. Thyroid eye disease can also affect the lacrimal glands which are muscles that control eye movement, the eyelid muscles, and the connective tissues surrounding the eye. The symptoms can include:

  • Bulging eyes
  • Inability to close the eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye fatigue
  • Excess tearing or dry eyes, due to swollen lacrimal glands
  • Double vision

The swollen tissues surrounding the eye can place pressure on your optic nerve which can lead to dim vision. Dim vision is an impaired ability to distinguish color and compromised central vision. These symptoms in the early stages of the disease can often be reversed. Yet, if left untreated, the condition could lead to permanent vision loss. Your corneas are left exposed when you are unable to fully close your eyelids which can lead to corneal ulcers and further vision damage. You should schedule an evaluation with a doctor if you are feeling symptoms.

acute phase of thyroid eye disease diagram

What Causes Thyroid Eye Disease?

Your immune system protects you from germs and other things that can make you sick. With thyroid eye disease, your body mistakes your own tissue in and around your eyes for a foreign invader. Your immune system then sends out cells called antibodies that attack the fat, muscle, and other tissue in and around your eye. The condition happens most often in people with too much thyroid hormone, or hyperthyroidism. Less commonly, it can happen if you have an underactive thyroid. Rarely, you can get it if you have normal thyroid levels.

Treatment for Thyroid Eye Disease

At SightMD, we offer complete treatment for thyroid eye disease in all its stages. If your symptoms are the first signs of a thyroid condition, we will recommend that you first see an internist or endocrinologist. They will work with you to regulate your thyroid function and at the same time, we can provide treatment for your ocular symptoms.

Is it Permanent?

Thyroid eye disease remains in an active stage for 1 to 3 years following its development. During this initial phase we will work to control your symptoms and by doing so we can hope to prevent vision damage. To prevent dry eyes and cornea damage, we may prescribe medicated eye drops and if swelling tissues are threatening your optic nerve, we may recommend steroids. We can treat double vision with specially designed glasses containing prisms.

What to Expect Following Treatment

Once your thyroid disease is in remission we offer more aggressive treatment to correct permanent changes in your orbital tissues. One of the most common treatments is orbital decompression surgery. Your doctor will remove a small section of your orbital bone to move your eye back into its normal position. Finally, eyelid surgery can help you to close your eyes fully. It can reduce the puffy appearance surrounding your eyes and in most cases the results of these surgical treatments last the rest of their lives.

Contact SightMD today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors to discuss your vision health at one of our convenient locations!