Thyroid Eye Disease

What is thyroid eye disease?

Thyroid eye disease is associated with thyroid dysfunction. It is an autoimmune condition where a person’s immune system attacks healthy cells in the body. In the case of thyroid eye disease, the cells in and around the eye are being attacked. The cause of thyroid eye disease is unknown. It is typically associated with Graves’ hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease) but can also occur with other thyroid conditions. It generally happens in adults and is more common in women than men.   


What are the symptoms of thyroid eye disease?

Symptoms from thyroid eye disease can range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms are:

  • eye redness
  • watering
  • eyelid swelling
  • eyelid retraction

Sometimes, thyroid disease can cause the tissue in the eye socket to get swollen. When this happens, the eyes can protrude from the eye socket and look very prominent. If the optic nerve is affected, this can cause blurred vision, impaired color vision, and vision loss. If the eye muscles get swollen, this can cause eye misalignment which results in double vision.  


Who should I see if I have thyroid eye disease?

People with thyroid eye disease must work closely with a number of physicians to ensure the best treatment possible. They should work with their primary care physician, endocrinologist, and general ophthalmologist. The general ophthalmologist will refer patients to subspecialists as needed. These may include plastic or oculoplastic surgeons, neuro-ophthalmologists, and/or strabismus surgeons.


Why would I go to a pediatric ophthalmology clinic?

Because eye muscle problems are more common in children, most eye muscle specialists work at pediatric facilities. This does not mean that they do not see adults. Most pediatric ophthalmologists are also experts in eye muscle disorders seen at all ages.


What is the treatment for the double vision?

Treatment options include closing or patching one eye, wearing special glasses called prism glasses, or eye muscle surgery.


How do I know which treatment is best for me?

See your eye doctor for an appropriate evaluation. Together, you can decide what the best treatment plan is for you.