Thyroid Problems and Your Eyes

September 15, 2019

Thyroid Eye Disease Treatment Chicago, ILYou may think of your thyroid gland only when it comes to issues with weight gain and such. But Graves’ disease, also known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy or thyroid eye disease, is an autoimmune disease caused by antibodies directed against receptors present in the thyroid cells and also on the surface of the cells behind the eyes.

We diagnose and treat thyroid eye disease at Millennium Park Eye Center.

What is thyroid eye disease?

Problems in the thyroid gland function can lead to changes in the eye and the eye socket (orbit). Usually this is the case when thyroid hormone levels are too high, but it can also occur when these levels are normal or below normal. Thyroid eye disease is characterized by swelling and inflammation of tissue within the orbit. This increases pressure behind the eye resulting in protrusion of the eye, double vision, and possible damage to the optic nerve.

What are the symptoms of thyroid eye disease?

With Graves’ disease, eye symptoms usually begin within six months of initial diagnosis. The severity of the patient’s symptoms doesn’t necessarily correlate to the severity of the hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling of irritation or grittiness in the eyes
  • Redness or inflammation of the white part of the eye (the conjunctiva)
  • Excessive tearing or dry eyes
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Forward bulging of the eyes
  • Double vision

In more advanced cases, these symptoms can occur:

  • Decreased eye movement
  • Decreased eyelid movement
  • Incomplete closure of the eyelid leading to corneal ulceration
  • Compression of the optic nerve
  • Potential loss of vision


Treatment is predicated upon severity. For some, lubricating eyedrops, sunglasses, and possibly a change to special glasses is sufficient. In others, steroids can reduce swelling in the eyes. Eyelid surgery can help reposition the eyelids to reduce irritation. Eye muscle surgery can be necessary to correct double vision. In rare occasions, orbital decompression surgery may be necessary to reduce pressure on the optic nerve due to swollen tissues.

Do you have any signs of thyroid eye disease? Please call us at Millennium Park Eye Center, (312) 996-2020, and let’s check out your eyes.


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