Thyroid eye disease is another name for Graves’ eye disease. An autoimmune condition, thyroid eye disease involves the thyroid glands getting attacked by the immune cells present in the body. Excessively low levels of thyroid hormones in the blood can also cause the occurrence of this disease.
How to Know Your Symptoms Indicate a Thyroid Eye Disease
You or your doctor will be able to determine if it is thyroid eye disease if you have the following symptoms:
- Constant stare
- Eyelid retraction
- Swelling of the eyelids
- Double vision
- Watering or redness of the eyes
- Irritable and dry eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of eyesight
- Pressure on the eye balls
Every year, at least a million people in the USA suffer from this eye disease. Women are more vulnerable to this disease than men. Cigarette smokers have a higher chance of contracting the disease. If it remains untreated for a long period of time, thyroid eye disease may mean permanent loss of eyesight.
Description of the disease
The thyroid gland secretes thyroid hormones in excess when it is attacked by immune cells. The thyroid gland gets enlarged because of this. The rate of metabolism of your body also gets increased rapidly because of excess secretion.
The eyes are affected first when the immune cells attack the connective tissues and the eye muscles in the eye sockets. The connective tissues are more vulnerable because they have proteins that are extremely similar to the proteins found in the immune system and the thyroid gland.
Thyroid eye disease is treated in two phases. During the first phase, your doctor will determine if the problems you are experiencing are due to an improperly functioning thyroid gland. He will conduct a thyroid test to confirm the situation. The thyroid problem will be treated first. Then eye problems comes next.
In the active period (first phase), the treatment runs for two or three years. The eye conditions will be monitored regularly to stabilize the situation. Keeping the cornea healthy and retaining eyesight are the main concerns of the treatment. Symptoms like double vision will also be treated.
Artificial tears, ointments, or gels will treat dry eyes and any irritation. Acute swelling will be corrected by using prednisone in order to improve loss of vision or double vision. Radiation therapy can also be of help. Redness, congestion, and pain in the eyes can be reduced by surgical decompression.
The second phase of the treatment is remission. It can last for a couple of years. Permanent changes that have occurred after phase I are corrected in this phase. More often than not, surgeries are required.
Eyelid retraction, double vision, and other problems have the chance of being resolved by surgery. Orbital decompression can also be corrected by surgery. The affected eye is repositioned in its normal place within the eye socket.
Contact Our Office
Contact us to find out more about thyroid eye disease and how it can affect you. If you have any questions about the condition or how to treat it, Dr. Jeffrey Joseph, a board-certified ophthalmologist, will provide the answers you need.