Thyroid eye disease is one of the reasons that your eye doctor asks medical questions and needs to know what medications you are taking. Your optometrist, like the ones here at BA Eye Site in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, is part of your health team and are concerned about more than just glasses and contacts. Grave’s disease is the manifestation of hyperthyroidism in the structures of the eye. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland overproduces a thyroid hormone, which results in an immunological response that attacks ocular tissues causing swelling, inflammation that can limit the movement of the eyes. Most common in women but age and smoking are also factors.

Why Eye Exams Matter

Annually there are about one million cases of Grave’s disease diagnosed in the U.S.  In many cases the eye disease is the first indication of the disease leading to the diagnosis. If you or your family has a history of thyroid disease you should see your optometrist and have an eye exam regularly. It manifests in the eye by a protrusion (bulging) which causes a host of symptoms:

  • 1. dry, irritated eyes
  • 2. double vision especially when looking down
  • 3. swollen eye lids
  • 4. incomplete lid closure during sleep
  • 5. loss of vision

Treatment generally is to alleviate dryness, but Grave’s Disease is vision-threatening due to increased pressure on the optic nerve by the surrounding swollen tissue. In these thankfully rare cases, surgical decompression of the orbit to relieve the pressure can be done to preserve vision. Thyroid eye disease can be identified, managed and treated early through regular comprehensive eye exams.

Dr. Matthew Ozment