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Thyroid Eye Disease

Man with bulging eyes due to thyroid disease

Thyroid Eye disease (Graves’ disease) is an auto-immune disease that causes inflammation of the Thyroid gland. It is frequently associated with inflammation of the extraocular muscles and orbital fat. The effects on the eye may be temporary and reversible. Some patients however have severe and permanent orbital inflammation. This can cause proptosis (a forward displacement of the eye). The upper and lower eyelids may become retracted causing exposure of the cornea and conjunctiva. Symptoms can range from tearing, corneal dryness and irritation (in mild cases) to double vision, corneal scarring, vision loss and possibly blindness (in the severest of cases).

Treatment of thyroid eye disease depends on the severity of the disease. Many patients do well with simple measures such as frequent use of lubricants and topical anti-inflammatory drops. If the eyelid is retracted without significant proptosis, eyelid lengthening procedures may be performed. In cases of severe proptosis treatment options vary from radiation therapy (a controversial therapy) to surgical orbital decompression.

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