Your thyroid gland is an organ at the front of your throat. It makes hormones that affect almost every part of your body, including your eyes.
Thyroid eye disease (TED) is a health issue that results in sensitive, bulging eyes. It's triggered by an autoimmune disorder called Graves' disease.
Symptoms of TED sometimes go away on their own.
Doctors can treat severe cases of TED with medicine or surgery.
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TED (also called Graves' eye disease) is a health issue where swelling around the eyes makes them bulge.
It's caused by Graves' disease, a disorder where your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland then makes too much thyroid hormone.
Your thyroid gland is in your throat and shaped like a butterfly. It makes hormones that control your metabolism. These hormones affect almost every part of your body, including your eyes.
TED is rare. It occurs in about 19 out of 100,000 people in the U.S. But it's five times more common in women than it is in men.
You can get thyroid eye disease at any age, but it's most common in middle age.
TED isn't contagious. You can't catch it from someone else.
Graves' disease is most often the cause of TED.
About one in three people with Graves' disease get symptoms of thyroid eye disease.
If you have Graves' disease, your immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The thyroid then makes more hormones than the body needs, and these hormones speed up functions in your body.
Doctors aren't sure the exact cause of Graves' disease.
People with certain gene mutations may be more likely to get it. Viruses may trigger the disease to form in people with these genes.
Graves' disease symptoms include:
It can cause serious health problems, including eye disease.
In rare cases, an underactive thyroid causes TED.
Graves' disease is the main risk factor for getting TED.
Other risks include:
Having “thyroid eyes" or “Graves' disease eyes" can reduce your quality of life. You may feel self-conscious and avoid other people because your appearance has changed. This can lead to anxiety and depression.
In rare cases, the swelling around the eyes presses on the optic nerve, which connects the eye to your brain. The swelling can lead to vision loss.
There's no known way to prevent TED. If you smoke, cutting back will reduce your risk of double vision and bulging eyes.Back to top
Thyroid eye disease symptoms often appear within the first year after you're diagnosed with Graves' disease.
Symptoms tend to affect both eyes. But you may only notice symptoms in one eye.
Symptoms of thyroid eye disease include:
An ophthalmologist will give you a complete eye exam. It's more in-depth than a routine vision exam.
During the exam, they'll look closely at your eyes and eyelids for signs of TED.
Other tests may include:
At the UPMC Multidisciplinary Thyroid Eye Disease Clinic, you'll see an ophthalmologist and an endocrinologist. These experts will work together to assess and treat your thyroid eye disease.
We may also call in surgeons and ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors when needed.
Treatment for an overactive thyroid may help with TED. Your doctor may suggest other treatments.
You can do some treatments at home.
Your doctor may also advise treatments such as:
Most cases of TED are mild. Symptoms usually last a year or two and often go away on their own.
Many people recover after getting treatment for their overactive thyroid.
If you're over 50 when you get diagnosed with thyroid eye disease, you may have a worse prognosis.Back to top