Thyroid Eye Disease (Graves Disease)

Graves disease is one of the conditions that causes the body to attack itself, aka an autoimmune disorder, resulting in abnormal thyroid function. One of the effects of this condition is thyroid eye disease, which may affect one or both of your eyes.

What Is Thyroid Eye Disease (TED)?

Thyroid disease is a condition where your immune cells attack your thyroid gland, which results in an overproduction thyroid hormone. This autoimmune disease leads to enlargement of your thyroid gland and increased metabolism. This hypermetabolic state leads to thyroid disease or Graves disease symptoms, which are composed of rapid or irregular pulses or heartbeat, high blood pressure, excessive sweating, irritability, weight loss, fatigue, heat intolerance, hair loss and changes in hair quality.

Eye changes also occur as one of the many thyroid disease symptoms, which can range from mild to severe. Thyroid eye disease may occur even when your thyroid hormone level is low or normal, although most patients with thyroid disease or Graves disease symptoms have abnormally elevated hormone levels (hyperthyroidism) accompanied by the presence of specific antibodies in the blood. Up to 20% of patients with thyroid disease have changes in eyesight.

Thyroid eye disease/Graves disease symptoms

Eye symptoms in thyroid disease may affect one or both eyes. They are caused by the swelling and pushing of tissues in the eye socket, which moves your eyeball forward. This may also result in:

When to see a doctor:

Consult an eye specialist when your eye symptoms seem to be getting worse within a few weeks. It is also advisable to see a doctor when:

What Causes Thyroid Eye Disease (TED)?

Thyroid eye disease, also known as Graves' ophthalmopathy, is a common manifestation of Graves disease, a condition that is caused by hyperthyroidism. It results from carbohydrate build-up in the skin, though the cause of it is unknown yet. It is believed that antibodies that cause thyroid disease may affect the tissues surrounding your eyes.

Thyroid eye disease symptoms often appear as hyperthyroidism develops, but they may also develop after many months or years later. These may also occur even when there is no hyperthyroidism.

Up to one million Americans develop thyroid eye disease every year. Women are 5-6 times more likely to develop the disease compared to men. Cigarette smoking also significantly increases your risk of getting thyroid disease, and often causes more severe thyroid disease or Graves disease symptoms that may threaten vision.

What Are the Treatment Options of Thyroid Eye Disease (TED)?

Inflammation of the tissues affected in thyroid eye disease may improve without treatment. However, some symptoms such as eye bulging, which is caused by swollen tissues may remain. The goal of treatment is to reduce tissue damage and prevent complications.

With the help of an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) and an endocrinologist (a specialist on hormones), your thyroid eye disease treatments may include:

1. Medicines

2. Surgical Treatment

3. Other Types of Treatment

What Else Can You Do? 

Aside from conventional medical and surgical treatments, there are other steps you can do to improve symptoms of your thyroid eye disease. These include:

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