Eye Conditions and Treatment

Graves' Disease is treated in the Neuro-Ophthalmology Service

Graves' Disease (thyroid eye disease)

Although the thyroid gland is located in the neck, problems in the gland’s function may lead to changes in the eye and orbit (eye socket). The combination of thyroid dysfunction and eye changes is called Graves’ disease or thyroid eye disease. The eye symptoms usually appear when thyroid hormone levels are too high but can occur when these levels are normal or below normal.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Protrusion of one or both eyeballs
  • Puffy, swollen eyelids
  • Gritty, burning, irritated eyes that frequently water
  • Diplopia (double vision)
  • Decreased vision, often following reduced brightness of colors
  • Redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, the thin layer covering the white part of the eye
  • Difficulty in completely closing the eyelids, especially while sleeping

Treatment and Prevention

  • Eye drop lubricants (tear supplements)
  • Pressure dressings to cover the eye
  • Some patients tape their eyes closed when they sleep to prevent further exposure
  • Lateral tarsorrhaphy, an operation that involves stitching part of the eyelids together
  • Surgically weakening of the muscles that raise the upper eyelids to cause ptosis (eyelid droop) so the eyelids more adequately cover the eyes

Eye Facts logo linkFor a deeper understanding of the diagnosis and treatment plan for Graves' disease, see Thyroid Eye Disease Eye Facts.