Thyroid Eye Disease

March 15, 2021

In autoimmune conditions the body’s immune system attacks different areas of the body. In thyroid eye disease (TED), the body attacks the tissues of the thyroid gland and the eye socket. This causes the eyes to be pushed forward and for the eyelids to open too far. While in more minor instances TED can cause red, irritable, and watery eyes, in more severe cases it can reduce eye movements and even impact the optic nerve leading to failing eyesight.

Our diverse team at Millennium Park can diagnose and treat TED with various options ranging from eye lubricants to surgery.

What causes TED?

When the body’s immune cells attack the thyroid gland, the gland responds by secreting an excess amount of thyroid hormone. In other areas of the body, the result is elevated heart rate, fatigue, hair loss, and other issues. When the tissues around the eyes are attacked it causes the eye muscles or fat to expand.

It’s not fully understood why the body often seems to attack the eye tissues in TED. The thinking is that this occurs because these tissues contain proteins that appear similar to the immune system as those of the thyroid gland.

Symptoms of TED

These are the general symptoms of TED:

  • Redness and pain in the eyes
  • Puffiness around the eyes
  • Bulging of the eyes
  • Dry eye and irritation because the eyelids cannot close completely

If the disease progresses, these symptoms may occur:

  • Increased pressure inside the eye socket
  • Pressure-pain or deep headaches, which worsens with eye movement
  • Double vision
  • Decreased vision as swollen tissues push on the optic nerve

Treating TED

At Millennium Park, we have various options for treating TED, depending on the severity. Most cases of TED are mild and self-limiting over a few years. In mild cases, lubricant eye drops may be all that is needed to reduce eye discomfort. Severe inflammation can be reduced with drugs such as steroids or with low doses of orbital radiotherapy (x-rays). If the eyesight is impaired due to pressure on the optic nerve, it may be necessary to perform orbital decompression to prevent permanent loss of vision. Squint surgery on the eyelid muscles may be necessary to improve double vision and eyelid surgery may be needed to improve the appearance or to allow for full eyelid closure. If there is serious pushing forward of the eyes, creating significant bulging, orbital decompression surgery can significantly improve the facial cosmetic appearance.

If you or a loved one has any symptoms of TED, don’t hesitate to call our experienced team at Millennium Park, (312) 996-2020, to schedule an appointment.


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