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HealthInfo Canterbury

Thyroid eye disease

Thyroid eye disease is a condition where the muscles and soft tissues around and behind your eyes become swollen.

This usually happens when you have an over-active thyroid gland that makes too much thyroid hormone. This is called hyperthyroidism.

A common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave's disease, which is an autoimmune disorder. In autoimmune conditions your immune system starts to attack parts of your own body.

Occasionally thyroid eye disease can happen in people who don't have hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms of thyroid eye disease

Reading glasses can help to compensate for presbyopiaAll symptoms happen because of swollen tissue around your eye and within your eye socket.

Most people have a mild form of the disease, which causes irritation, redness or dryness at the front of their eyes.

A few people get worse problems, including bulging and "staring" eyes and double vision (if their eye muscles are affected).

In advanced cases, which are extremely rare, your vision may be affected with:

Treating thyroid eye disease

You'll need to have treatment for your overactive thyroid to get your hormones back to normal levels. You'll also need regular blood tests to check your thyroid function, so your medication can be adjusted if needed.

If you smoke, stop immediately. Smoking makes thyroid eye disease worse.

Your treatment will depend on what problems you're having with your eyes and how bad they are. They might include:

Rarely, some people need surgery to:

Long-term outcomes

Thyroid eye disease eventually settles down, but it can take two to three years to completely get better.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director Ophthalmology, Canterbury DHB, Last reviewed October 2019. Last updated May 2020.

See also:

Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

Page reference: 263797

Review key: HITYE-263797