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Thyroid Eye Disease: What You Need to Know 

What is thyroid eye disease? 

Thyroid eye disease is a disorder of the immune system. It causes muscles and tissues around the eye to puff up. 

What causes thyroid eye disease? 

Your immune system helps you by protecting your body from germs and other harmful things. But in some people, the body makes a mistake and thinks that tissue in and around the eyes is harmful. So it sends out antibodies that attack the tissue. 

Who is at risk for thyroid eye disease? 

Usually it occurs in people with too much thyroid hormone. But it can also occur if you have too little thyroid hormome or, rarely, if you have normal thyroid hormone. 

A condition called Graves’ disease causes your body to attack the thyroid gland. Many people with Graves’ disease also have thyroid eye disease. People with Graves’ disease are at higher risk of developing thyroid eye disease if they smoke, are female, have certain genetic factors, or get radioiodine treatment. 

What are the symptoms of thyroid eye disease?

Symptoms include: 

  • redness of the eye/eyelid
  • irritation of the eye
  • pain and pressure of the eye 
  • eyes that are dry or watery
  • double vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • bulging of eyes
  • blurry vision or double vision
  • difficulty closing the eyes

How is thyroid eye disease diagnosed? 

An ophthalmologist (doctor who specializes in treatment of the eyes) will perform an eye exam. If you are diagnosed with the condition, they will check to see how it is changing over time and develop a treatment plan for you. 

How is thyroid eye disease treated? 

Treatment options include: 

  • lubricating medicine 
  • anti-inflammatory medicine 
  • IV (intravenous) medicine 
  • prism glasses 
  • radiation
  • surgery 

What are the stages of thyroid eye disease? 

There are 2 phases: 

  • Acute. This is where symptoms appear and often get worse quickly. 
  • Chronic. Some symptoms may get better, but others may not go away. If left untreated, symptoms may continue to return.  

Next steps: 

Whether you are in the acute or chronic phase of thyroid eye disease, Vanderbilt Eye Institute can help.