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How Your Overactive Thyroid Can Affect Your Eyes

Your thyroid gland governs your production of thyroid hormone. Overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormone can affect your metabolism, your mood, and even your eyes. If you have thyroid eye disease, also known as Graves’ eye disease, overproduction of thyroid hormone in response to an autoimmune attack can ultimately threaten your vision.

Our renowned oculoplastic surgeon, Raymond Douglas, MD, PhD, has the expertise you can trust when it comes to diagnosing and treating the effects of hyperthyroidism on your eyes. Here’s what Dr. Douglas wants his new and existing patients to understand about the effects of thyroid hormones on your eyes and vision.

Can hyperthyroidism really affect your vision?

High levels of thyroid hormones result in symptoms of a hypermetabolic state, with a rapid pulse, heavy sweating, and high blood pressure. You could experience hair loss and struggle to regulate your internal temperature.

You might tend to think of thyroid problems in a weight-loss context. However, about 20 million people in the United States suffer from thyroid-related eye problems of some kind. 

You’re not likely to see effects on your eyes or vision if you have an underproductive thyroid (hypothyroidism). But, if your thyroid gland overproduces, your hyperthyroidism could impact your eyes.

Patients with thyroid eye disease suffer from a type of autoimmune disorder. If you have thyroid eye disease, your immune cells react to your thyroid gland, and often the tissues around your eyes, as well, as they would an attacking foreign body.

Your thyroid responds to your immune system activity by going into high gear, producing higher-than-normal levels of thyroid hormones. During an autoimmune attack related to thyroid eye disease, the muscles and fat around your eyeballs expand, placing potentially dangerous pressure on your eyes. You could also experience redness, swelling, pain, and bulging of your eye area during an attack.

Expert diagnosis and treatment for thyroid eye disease

You can protect your eyes from Graves’ eye disease and other potential negative impacts from your thyroid. Get your condition diagnosed by Dr. Douglas’ team of experts, and they can develop the best treatment plan for you. Getting early treatment is important, because as many as 10-20% of patients with thyroid eye disease suffer from vision changes.

Treating your thyroid gland problem alone won’t resolve your Graves’ eye disease symptoms. You may need specialist care to reduce the swelling and relieve pressure around your eye sockets. During the active phase of thyroid eye disease, you’ll need careful monitoring to preserve your vision, as well as corrective care after your symptoms resolve.

Dr. Douglas may recommend artificial tears to address your symptoms of eye discomfort. We can also treat acute autoimmune inflammation for a limited time with prednisone and radiation therapy. If needed, Dr. Douglas is highly experienced with orbital decompression surgery to reduce your ocular pressure levels.

To consult with Dr. Douglas about your eye discomfort, bulging eyes, or thyroid eye disease concerns, get in touch with our office in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California. Just call us to schedule your appointment.