One of the most well-known eye related signs of thyroid disease is the appearance of the eye bulging forward or out of the socket. This sign is not exclusive to thyroid disease, but thyroid disease is the most common cause of bulging eyes.
Basics of Thyroid Disease
Thyroid disease can refer to when the thyroid gland secretes too many hormones (hyperthyroidism), when the thyroid gland does not secrete enough hormones (hypothyroidism), or when the thyroid gland has been surgically removed and thus does not produce any hormones (secondary hypothyroidism).
In all forms of thyroid disease, the eyes may become affected similarly.
If the thyroid is over secreting hormones, metabolism will increase, and the body will often be overworked from the constant stimulation.
If the thyroid is under secreting hormones, metabolism will decrease, and the body may become sluggish from the lack of stimulation.
Thyroid Disease Related Inflammation
In the course of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, the thyroid disease can lead to inflammation throughout the body.
This inflammation is caused by an error in the hormone based signaling system. When the thyroid hormone levels are not balanced, it can lead to other hormonal issues.
This inflammation can affect the eyes and cause many of the classic signs and symptoms of thyroid eye disease.
Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) Symptoms
When thyroid disease begins to affect the eyes and has symptoms related to the eyes, it can be called thyroid eye disease.
These symptoms are generally related to the inflammation caused by thyroid disease.
The tear glands and tear ducts, the eyelids, and the eye muscles can become red and inflamed in thyroid eye disease.
If the eye muscles and the fatty tissue behind the eye become inflamed, it can lead to the bulging eye appearance that is associated with thyroid eye disease.
Proptosis with Thyroid Eye Disease
Proptosis is the term for when one or both of the eyes are pushed forward from the eye socket and are abnormally positioned.
Thyroid eye disease is the leading cause of proptosis in all ages.
When the inflammation affects the contents of the eye socket to a degree that the eye itself is pushed so far forward it is no longer within the normal range of positions, proptosis is occurring.
Complications from Proptosis
Proptosis, or bulging eyes, can obviously affect a person’s appearance and result in cosmetic complaints.
Additionally, proptosis can lead to a series of related eye conditions.
When proptosis is severe, it can restrict the movement of the eyes, lead to an incomplete closure of the eyelids, and cause the front of the eye to become dry and damaged.
Restricted the movement of the eyes is especially common in proptosis caused by thyroid eye disease because in addition to the proptosis, the eye muscles themselves are inflamed and may have even more restricted motion.
When the eyelids do not close completely, it can lead to an area of the cornea that is continually exposed to the air and will dry out or become damaged.
Treatments for Thyroid Eye Disease
Traditionally, all thyroid disease has been treated with hormonal therapy or thyroid gland surgery.
If thyroid disease is controlled and the eye symptoms are continuing, steroids or other medications to treat the symptoms specifically are available.