Eye Conditions and Treatment

Thyroid Eye Disease is treated in the Neuro-Ophthalmology Service

Thyroid Eye Disease

The function of the thyroid gland is to secrete, or form, hormones that control a wide range of the body’s metabolic processes. Not enough hormone secretion results in hypothyroidism, which may cause fatigue, intolerance to cold, weight gain and dry skin. Too much secretion of hormone results in hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroid persons may have heat intolerance, nervousness, weight loss and heart palpitations.

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

  • Mild corneal exposure may be treated with eye drop lubricants (tear supplements) and pressure dressings to cover the eye
  • Some patients tape their eyes closed when they sleep
  • Severe cases of corneal exposure may need a lateral tarsorrhaphy
  • Surgery to weaken the muscles that raise the upper eyelids to cause ptosis (eyelid droop) so the eyelids more adequately cover the eyes
  • Antibiotics to prevent perforation of the cornea
  • Prisms attached to glasses
  • Surgery to reposition the eye muscles
  • Steroid medications
  • Radiation

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