Thyroid Eye Disease

What is Thyroid Eye Disease?

Be Eye Wise and learn that a dysfunctional thyroid can have many side effects on your body, including your eyes. When the thyroid is overactive or underactive, it triggers your immune system to enlarge the muscles that move the eye (thyroid eye disease).

Symptoms of thyroid eye disease can be:

  • Bulging of the eyes.
  • Double vision.
  • Redness of the eye.
  • Retraction of the eyelids.
  • Difficulty closing the eyes.
  • Irritation.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Decreased vision.

Treating thyroid eye disease:

Like other autoimmune diseases, thyroid eye disease may come and go on its own without treatment. Although it causes an acute inflammatory episode, symptoms may persist for years or indefinitely. The goal of any thyroid eye disease treatment is to improve the symptoms of the disease while stabilizing the thyroid’s functioning. Northwest Eye doctors will help you overcome the debilitating symptoms of this disease with thyroid eye disease treatment options such as:

  • Lubricating drops and ointment to relieve irritation.
  • Eyelid surgery to help your eyes close.
  • Eye realignment to improve double vision.
  • Steroid medications to minimize enlarged eye muscles.
  • Radiation therapy to minimize enlarged eye muscles.
  • Eye surgery to increase the size of the eye’s socket and reduce pressure on the optic nerve.


To learn all you can about thyroid eye disease, please schedule an appointment with a Northwest Eye doctor. Because the more you know, the better you see.

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Thyroid Associated Orbitopathy (TAO)

Be Eye Wise and find out that thyroid-associated orbitopathy (TAO) is the most common specific inflammatory condition affecting the eye socket and periorbital tissues. The muscles that move the eye (extraocular muscles) are the primary site of inflammation, but orbital fat and eyelid muscles are also involved. Thyroid-associated orbitopathy is associated with Graves’ thyroid disease. It can develop any time during the course of the disease, whether your thyroid is normal, underactive or overactive.

There are two phases of thyroid-associated orbitopathy:

  • Active (inflammatory) phase, which may last from six months to five years. Signs and symptoms change or progress over weeks to months.
  • Non-active (post-inflammatory) phase, which begins once the signs and symptoms have remained stable for at least 6 months.

Symptoms of active thyroid-associated orbitopathy can be:

  • Eyelid retraction causing “thyroid stare.”
  • Dry eye syndrome.
  • Swelling.
  • Boggy, wet eyes.
  • Restrictive strabismus with double vision.
  • Bulging eyes.
  • Vision loss from damage to the optic nerve.

Symptoms of non-active thyroid-associated orbitopathy can be:

  • Eyelid retraction.
  • Exposure keratopathy.
  • Tightness and pulling sensations when moving the eyes which then causes double vision.
  • Proptosis and compressive optic neuropathy with vision loss.

Treatment of thyroid-associated orbitopathy.

Surgical treatment is typically reserved for the non-active phase of the disease, except when vision is threatened (e.g., optic neuropathy or severe corneal exposure).

Treatment of thyroid-associated orbitopathy depends on each case but may include a combination of surgery and medicine.

To learn all you can about thyroid orbitopathy, Be Eye Wise and schedule an appointment with Northwest Eye orbitopathy specialist Dr. Nicholas Schmitt. Because the more you know, the better you see.