Focus on Eyes: Thyroid eye disease can cause a range of problems, but it is treatable

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Thyroid eye disease (TED) is an autoimmune disorder usually associated with an overactive thyroid gland.

It affects about a quarter of people with thyroid dysfunction.

In most cases, the condition is mild and asymptomatic, but about 10-20% patients with TED can have significant symptoms.

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The body immune system attacks the tissues around the eyes. Inflammation and swelling of the eye muscles, fatty and connective tissues in the orbits and eyelids can cause:

• Swelling and fullness of the eyelids.

• Bulging or staring eyes.

• Bags under the eyes.

• Red and gritty eyes.

• Light sensitivity.

• Double vision.

• Blurry vision.

TED is more common in women than men. Smoking cigarettes increases the chance of getting TED and aggravates the symptoms.

Fluctuating thyroid hormone raises the risk of developing of TED. Symptoms may get worse during radioactive iodine treatment.

Most people with TED suffer from dry or irritated eyes because their eyelids are too tight and cannot blink properly.

Frequent application of artificial tears is necessary to lubricate the eyes and maintain the health of one’s ocular surface.

Preservative-free and thicker gel lubricants may work better for some TED patients.

Lifestyle changes can alleviate some symptoms of TED.

Smoke cession has an immediate effect.

Wrap-around sunglasses can help light-sensitive eyes and reduce irritation from wind or other irritants.

Some degree of puffy eyelids may be reduced by controlling dietary salt intake to decrease fluid retention.

Sleeping with an elevated head, by propping up the bed, may also minimize eye swelling.

If the eyelids cannot close while sleeping, taping them shut can prevent dry and irritated eyes.

Moderate and severe swelling and inflammation can cause visual loss and impair one’s daily activities or psychological well-being.

Steroids may be prescribed to reduce the swelling and relieve the symptoms.

A new medicine, Tepezza (Teprotumumab), has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically to treat TED.

These medications are associated with some side effects so they should be administered by ophthalmologists who have extensive experience in managing TED.

There are eyelid, eye muscle and orbital surgeries that can correct the problems with eyelids, double vision and bulging eyes.

These surgeries are performed when the inflammation has subsided and in stages by ophthalmologists who specialize in surgeries for TED.

The course of TED is quite variable, ranging from mild to significant visual symptoms.

Fortunately most are mild and can be treated with simple remedies, but there are medical and surgical therapies that can minimize the severity of the more symptomatic TED, too.

Dr. Frederick Ho, the medical director of Atlantic Eye MD and Atlantic Surgery and Laser Center, is a board certified ophthalmologist. Atlantic Eye MD is located at 8040 N. Wickham Road in Melbourne. To make an appointment please call (321) 757-7272. To learn more visit

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Thyroid eye disease symptoms and ways to have it treated