The thyroid is a gland located at the front of the neck that produces hormones to help regulate your metabolism, which transforms food into energy. A small percentage of people have an overactive thyroid that produces more hormones than needed; this is called hyperthyroidism, or Graves’ disease. This thyroid condition can be associated with a number of eye and vision problems, which is why it is important to get the disease under control and be aware of any symptoms that may be affecting your eyes.
Symptoms of Graves’ Disease
Symptoms of Graves’ disease vary according to the person. However, common eye problems related to the condition include:
Eye Protrusion: Inflammation from the disease can affect the tissue surrounding your eye, resulting in muscle swelling and pushing the eye forward.
Eyelid Retraction: The eyelid muscles may begin to tighten, and, combined with possible eye protrusion, the eyelids may begin to retract and show the whites of the eye above and below the iris.
Dry Eye: As more of the eye is exposed, additional side effects may result, including eye irritation, swelling, excessive tearing, sensitivity to light, corneal ulcers and scarring, and blurred vision. Without treatment, severe dry eye may lead to vision loss.
Double Vision: Between the muscles swelling and tightening, you may begin to see double.
Eye Bags: Swelling of the tissue around the eyes may cause fatty tissue to bulge and form “bags,” creating a prematurely aged appearance.
Vision Loss: Due to the swelling around the eye, the abnormal pressure may damage the optic nerve and cause vision loss.
Treatment for Graves’ Disease
To help reduce these symptoms, our doctors at Virginia Eye Consultants offer both non-surgical and surgical treatment options. When you come in for routine eye exams, your doctor will monitor any changes in your eye protrusion and eyelid retraction by taking a variety of measurements. If you suffer from Graves’ disease, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
Regularly using ointment or artificial tears can help lubricate dry eyes. If you experience swelling from the eye condition, there are several methods of reducing this: steroid medication, elevating your head while sleeping, radiation treatment, and cool compresses. For those suffering from double vision, specialty eyeglasses with prisms can improve your ability to see correctly.
Should your symptoms be too severe and not respond to non-surgical treatments, you may require surgery to help control the progression of Graves’ disease symptoms. This may include repositioning your eye muscles to reduce double vision, relieve dry eye, correct eyelid retraction, and improve your eye appearance. Additionally, compression on the optic nerve can be lessened when extra space is created in the eye socket.
Contact Virginia Eye Consultants
To learn more about how you can control eye concerns resulting from Graves’ disease, please contact our office to schedule your next appointment.