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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 do not have hyperthyroidism.

What symptoms can thyroid eye disease cause?

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:

What treatments might I need?

It's important to get your thyroid gland monitored regularly, including having thyroid function blood tests. You may need treatment to help stabilise your thyroid gland so it isn't over- or under-active.

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

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

Rarely, some people need surgery to:

Will the thyroid eye disease get better?

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, Page created November 2016.

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Page reference: 263797

Review key: HITYE-263797