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.