Some people suffering from a thyroid problem develop thyroid eye disease (TED). TED is an eye condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack the muscles of the eyes and their surrounding tissues. The inflammation from TED results in protruding eyeballs. In some rare cases, it can be severe enough to cause permanent or temporary blindness.
TED is an autoimmune disorder that is the most common cause of orbital disease in adults. It is generally characterized by inflammation of the eye muscles and the soft tissues within the eye socket or orbit.
TED is also one of the significant causes of morbidity in people diagnosed with Graves’ disease. About 25 to 50 percent of patients with Graves’ hyperthyroidism have TED. But, it is also possible for TED to occur in people with a thyroid that is functioning normally.
It is not very clear why the body’s natural protective defenses could start to attack its own healthy tissues. In TED, inflammatory cells invade the tissues around the eye. This results in a person’s eyes and eyelids to appear red, swollen, and bulging.
Other symptoms include dry and irritated eyes, intolerance of bright lights, and bags under the eyes. People with TED may also experience tightening of eyelids, pain with eye movement, blurry or double vision due to restricted eye movements, and pressure sensation associated with a headache. It is also possible to notice strabismus. This is when the eyes are not aligned and point in different directions.
Most patients with TED show symptoms in both eyes, but the severity can vary between the eyes. If the inflammation is serious enough, the pressure in the eye socket can become too much. This stress can result in the compression of the optic nerves, thus leading to sight-threatening complications. If not treated immediately, the condition may cause loss of vision.
There are several ways to treat patients with TED. Topical lubricants, such as artificial tear drops, gels, or ointments, can manage mild cases. You can also find relief from using sleeping eye shields, prism lenses, and wraparound tinted glasses. Even as simple as elevating the head of your bed at night can also give you relief from mild symptoms. These mild cases range from watery eyes to discomfort from bright lights.
However, significant inflammation may need the use of corticosteroid therapy. It involves the use of steroids, which can be administered orally or intravenously. The steroid can help reduce redness, inflammation, swelling around and in the eyes, and double vision. In more severe cases, steroids can aid in restoring eyesight. Steroids may also be combined with other treatment modalities. These include immunosuppressive medications and radiation therapy. The combination aims to control the condition better and avoid potential relapse.
Nevertheless, the use of rehabilitative surgeries may be an option for patients with TED who have an altered appearance in their eyes. These procedures include eyelid surgery for eye protection, eye muscle surgery for double vision, and decompression surgery to treat protruding eyeballs.
Schedule your consultation today with Quality Eye Care at our Jacksonville or Gainesville office in Florida. Call us now at (904) 601-1300 for more information.