Lawrence G. Kass M.D.

OCULOPLASTIC & FACIAL

COSMETIC SURGERY


727.522.3223

St. Petersburg / Clearwater

Thyroid Eye Disease Graves Disease Treatment

One of the most common thyroid diseases is hyperthyroidism, in which there is an overproduction of thyroid hormones. People with hyperthyroidism may experience some degree of eye difficulty. Often, even if the overly active thyroid gland is brought under control, the eye symptoms persist or may even worsen.



The eye problems are caused by swelling of the soft tissues surrounding the eyes and enlargement of the muscles that move the eyes. As a result, the eyes may protrude forward, the eyelids may retract, there is an inability to fully close the eyelids, and an abnormally large amount of the front of the eye is exposed. This results in wide prominent eyes, a fixed staring expression, and infrequent blinking of the eyelids.




Some patients experience the eye problems as soon as their thyroid becomes hyperactive. In other cases, the eyes changes develop slowly, sometimes years after the beginning of abnormal thyroid activity.


Read a newspaper story about Dr. Kass's work: Graves' Disease Patients Get New Hope


There may be pressure about the eyes, double vision, excessive tearing, and irritation of conjunctiva (the mucous membrane that lines the eyelids). Inability to close the eyes at night can result in dryness, discomfort, blurred vision, foreign body sensation, or light sensitivity.


Treatment


In cases of mild eye problems, treatment is directed at minimizing the symptoms. Sleeping with the head elevated and using topical eye ointments and artificial tears may sooth the eyes.


In some cases, eye surgery is needed to correct the condition. The function and appearance of the eyes can usually be improved. Surgery is usually performed as an outpatient (there is no need for hospitalization). Local anesthesia with sedation, or general anesthesia, may be used so there is little, if any, pain during or even after the procedure.