Thyroid eye disease is swelling and inflammation around the eye related to thyroid hormone problems.
It is more common if your body makes too much thyroid hormone, a problem sometimes called Graves' disease.
The exact cause of thyroid eye disease is not known. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease. This means that the body's defenses against infection attack the body's own tissue, causing inflammation in and around the eye socket.
Although most common in people with high or low thyroid hormone levels, thyroid eye disease can happen even if you have normal thyroid hormone levels. It may get worse when thyroid disease is treated. People who smoke are more likely to have thyroid eye disease.
Symptoms of thyroid eye disease may include:
Your eye care provider will give you a complete eye exam. This will include checking your cornea, optic nerve, eye movement, and eyelid and eye position. You may have a blood test to check thyroid hormone levels. Sometimes an ultrasound or a CT scan of the eye sockets is needed to check the swelling of the eye muscles and tissues of the eye socket.
Your provider may prescribe medicine to control your thyroid hormone levels. You may need regular blood tests to check your hormone levels and make sure they are in good control.
Artificial tears or ointment at night can help dry eyes. Sometimes steroid drugs or low doses of radiation are used to reduce the swelling around the eye. If you have double vision, special prisms can be put on your glasses.
Sometimes surgery is done to help you have a more normal appearance or to improve or keep your vision. The surgery may:
Some symptoms, such as tearing or a scratchy feeling in your eyes, can be relieved by using eyedrops or ointments. Steroids or radiation can reduce swelling in a few days to a few weeks. Problems that can be treated with surgery usually do not come back if the surgery is done after your thyroid hormones are under control.
Usually thyroid eye disease cannot be prevented. However, serious problems with your eyes and blindness can be prevented by early diagnosis and treatment. Have regular checkups. Contact your healthcare provider if you develop any symptoms that concern you.