What Is Thyroid Eye Disease?

hyroid eye disease (TED) is an autoimmune condition that impacts eye tissues. Typically, TED leads to inflammation, swelling, and damage to the muscles, connective tissues, and fatty tissues in the eye area. 

Since TED can cause permanent, lasting damage, understanding what it does, who’s at risk, early systems, and why prompt treatment is critical is essential. Here’s a closer look at thyroid eye disease. 

What Thyroid Eye Disease Does to Eye Tissues 

As commonly occurs with autoimmune conditions, the person’s immune system is essentially attacking their own body. With TED, the eye tissues are targeted by the immune system. 

TED occurs in two phases. First, there’s the active phase, which is also known as the inflammatory phase. This period can last up to three years, and it’s generally marked by ongoing inflammation and inflammation-related symptoms and damage. Second, there’s the stable phase, where inflammation subsides. 

TED can cause lead to other conditions, such as secondary glaucoma. Regardless of whether that occurs, the damage created by TED is potentially impactful. 

Who Is at Risk of Thyroid Eye Disease? 

In many cases, TED is connected to Graves disease, an autoimmune condition that affects the skin, thyroid, and eyes. Graves disease can lead to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, both of which can trigger TED. 

Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism not related to Graves disease may also result in TED. However, TED can occur without Graves disease or thyroid hormone abnormalities. Another risk factor is low levels of selenium in your blood. 

The Early Symptoms of Thyroid Eye Disease 

There are many symptoms associated with TED. While one of the most pronounced is proptosis (bulging eyes), dry eyes, watery eyes, irritation caused by a gritty feeling, redness, and double vision may occur before there are obvious physical changes. 

Vision changes can occur, as well as pain with eye movements or discomfort behind the eyes. Trouble closing your eyes fully is also a potential symptom and may lead to a corneal ulcer. 

In some cases, symptoms may only affect one eye. However, they can also occur in both. 

Why Regular Eye Appointments Are Crucial 

Scheduling regular eye appointments is critical regardless of whether you currently have TED. Your eye care provider can look for signs and symptoms that may indicate TED or conditions that may lead to thyroid eye disease. 

If you have TED, frequent appointments allow your eye care provider to monitor your condition and provide treatment options. This may include over-the-counter options to relieve irritation or dryness and reduce inflammation, selenium supplements if the levels in your blood are low, or prescription medications. 

Your eye care provider may also recommend certain home remedies or lifestyle changes. For example, using cool compresses to reduce swelling and discomfort may be part of the plan. Keeping your head higher when lying down, wearing sunglasses when in well-lit spaces or outdoors, eyelid taping, and similar steps may also be included. 

In some cases, surgical treatments might be on the table. This can include eyelid, eye muscle, or orbital decompression procedures. Radiation therapy is a potential option for combating inflammation, as well. 

At ECVA, the safety and health of our patients’ eyes are our priority. If you are concerned about thyroid eye disease or simply haven’t seen your eye care provider in the past year, the ECVA team is here to help. Schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today. 

Do I Have a Blocked Tear Duct or Stye?

For many patients, issues like bumps on your eye are immediately concerning. One common condition is a stye, which usually presents on the eyelid, is typically a bit red, and may or may not come with soreness. 

Blocked tear ducts are different. Your tear ducts – also referred to as nasolacrimal ducts – are positioned near the inner corners of the eyes close to the nose, and their main purpose is to drain tears from the eye surface. 

If you’re wondering if you have a blocked tear duct, here’s what you need to know. 

Symptoms of a Blocked Tear Duct 

One of the most common symptoms of a blocked tear duct is watery eyes. When there’s a blockage, tears don’t drain properly, causing them to pool and leading to watery eyes. However, there are other signs of a blocked tear duct, including: 

  • Blurry vision 
  • Eye Redness 
  • Eyelid crusting 
  • Recurring eye infections 
  • Mucus or pus discharge 
  • Ongoing inflammation 
  • Swelling in the inner corner of the eye 

It’s important to note that the symptoms above can also point to a range of other eye conditions. As a result, if they’re present and persistent, it’s best to meet with your eye care provider for a formal diagnosis. 

Will Blocked Tear Ducts Clear Up on Their Own? 

Blocked tear ducts can clear up on their own. For infants, there is often a membrane that covers the duct, resulting in a blockage. As they grow, the membrane usually opens on its own, resolving the issue. 

With adults, blocked tear ducts may resolve if the blockage ultimately clears. In some cases, specific eye care steps can encourage this process, though it may also occur naturally. 

However, if there are signs of an eye infection, that may not clear up on its own. Additionally, if the blockage is due to a structural issue, such as an overly narrow tear duct, it often requires treatment from an eye care professional to resolve. 

Home Care for Blocked Tear Ducts 

There are home treatments for blocked tear ducts. Begin by washing the eye with warm water and a gentle soap to remove any eyelid crusting and reduce the odds of infection. 

You can also carefully massage the lacrimal sac, which is the spot where tears drain. Twice a day, use clean fingers to gently rub the lower corners of the impacted eye or eyes for a few seconds to encourage the tear duct blockage to clear. 

When to Seek Medical Treatment 

Generally, it’s best to speak with your eye care provider if you experience excessive tearing for more than a couple of days. Additionally, if there are signs of infection – such as mucus, pus, or eyelid crusting – making an immediate appointment is best. 

Recurring infections also signal the need for treatment from an eye care specialist, ensuring that the root cause of the ongoing problem is addressed. Pain that impacts your daily activities should also be evaluated, as well as long-term discomfort that could signal a persistent issue. 

At ECVA, the safety and health of our patients’ eyes are our priority. If you are experiencing symptoms that could indicate a blocked tear duct or simply haven’t seen your eye care provider in the past year, the ECVA team is here to help. Schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today.