Thyroid eye disease (Thyroid Orbitopathy or TO) also referred to as Graves’ Disease, is a condition that causes the muscles and soft tissues of the eye socket to swell and is often associated with over-active thyroid problems.  Thyroid eye disease may affect many different parts of the eye and surrounding tissues.

Symptoms of Thyroid Eye Disease:

  • Swelling (edema) of the eyelids and tissue around the eye
  • Dry eyes or a sensation of grit or irritation to the eye
  • Redness and watering of the eyes
  • Eyelid retraction
  • Sensitivity to light
  • A feeling of pressure in the eye sockets
  • Double vision
  • Loss of vision
  • Appearance of a constant stare
  • Difficulty closing the eyes

Common presentations of thyroid eye disease include bulging or proptosis of the eyes, as seen in the video below by Dr. Gil Epstein of the of Fort Lauderdale Eye Institute.

Thyroid eye disease problems may involve the eyelids and the orbit.  The orbit is the cavity or socket of the skull in which the eye and its appendages are situated.

Because the “eye socket” or orbit is made of bone, when swelling occurs there is nowhere for the swelling to be accommodated. This will cause the eye to move forward and protrude.  In some cases, there may be associated lid retraction which means that too much of the “white of the eyes” shows which can lead to redness, irritation and pressure and may cause double vision and problems while focusing.  In these cases, surgical alterations of the lids can be done to allow the eyes to be better protected as well as hide the stare-like appearance.

In more severe cases where protrusion of the eyelids makes it difficult to close your eyes, you may be at risk for developing a corneal ulcer.  A corneal ulcer can cause scarring and lead to permanent vision loss.  Because of the severity of these risks, aggressive techniques such as orbital bone decompression surgery may be performed to create more space in the orbit.

If you have experienced any of the symptoms associated with thyroid eye disease, contact the Fort Lauderdale Eye Institute and make an appointment today!