Thyroid eye disease (TED) is an eye condition that causes the muscles and soft tissues in and around your eye socket to become inflamed and swell. This can cause the eyes to be pushed forward causing them to look like they are ‘bulging’, this is called exophthalmos.
The period of inflammation and swelling caused by TED is known as the “active” stage. This generally resolves on its own over a period of about six months to two years. After this, the inflammation settles, and this is known as the “inactive” or “burnt out” stage.
One of the main causes of exophthalmos in the UK is thyroid eye disease, also known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy.
This is an autoimmune condition that affects around one in every three people with an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) caused by Graves’ disease. It’s particularly common in women aged 30-50 and people who smoke.
The symptoms of Thyroid Eye Disease are:
The swelling caused by TED can often improve once the active stage has passed, meaning there can be some improvement in the appearance of your eyes. You may be left with permanent damage to your eyes, which can be cosmetic or leave you with double vision. Corrective surgery may be carried out to improve the appearance of your eyes once the inflammation is under control.
Here are some things you can do to help relieve symptoms:
About a quarter of people with Graves’ disease develop TED either before, during, or after their thyroid disorder is diagnosed. In most cases the eye disease is mild
If you have Graves’, ensure you keep control of your thyroid levels by taking your prescription medication. If you are a smoker, consider giving up as your chance of developing TED is eight times higher than a non-smoker.