What is Thyroid Eye Disease?
Thyroid eye disease (TED), also known as Graves’ eye disease or Graves’ Ophthalmopathy, is an autoimmune disorder that causes abnormal hormone levels as well as changes to the eye socket and eyelids. This is due to the muscles and fatty tissue that reside behind the eye becoming inflamed.
Thyroid eye disease is an autoimmune disease. This means it occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. In this case, these tissues reside in the eye. Autoimmune diseases are still being researched by the scientific community. It is not yet understood why the immune system would attack its own healthy tissue.
When thyroid eye disease is severe, it can cause permanent damage to the eye and its functions. Common areas affected are the surface of the eye and the optic nerve. Damage to the optic nerve (the nerve that sends visual messages from the eye to the brain) is particularly serious as it may cause permanent vision loss.
What is the Treatment Process for Thyroid Eye Disease Like?
For mild or non-active cases of thyroid eye disease, non-surgical treatment methods are recommended. These include topical lubricants, head elevation while asleep, sleeping with eye shields on, or by wearing wrap-around tinted glasses.
When there is an active inflammation of the eye, other methods may be introduced. Treatments such as steroids, radiation, decompression surgery, and anti-inflammatory medicines may be tried.
For more severe cases of thyroid eye disease, surgery is heavily recommended. Thyroid eye disease is generally improved with a reconstructive eyelid or orbital surgery. This surgical method will typically take place over three stages.
The first stage of this surgery is known as orbital decompression. This entails removing pieces of the bone and fat located behind the eye to relieve the pressure within the eye socket.
The second stage is surgery on the eye muscle itself. This is done to correct the misalignment of the eyes, as well as to reposition the muscles that are in control of moving the eye.
The third stage is surgery on the eyelid. An upper eyelid blepharoplasty or lower eyelid blepharoplasty is used to fix the appearance of the eyelid(s).
The aforementioned treatment plans may not exactly apply to your individual condition. Your oculofacial plastic surgeon will assess your particular condition and determine a treatment plan that is right for you.
When Should I Consider Getting Treated for Thyroid Eye Disease?
You should consider undergoing treatment for thyroid eye disease as soon as you notice symptoms. If left untreated, thyroid eye disease may get worse and cause permanent damage to the eye. Consider undergoing treatment if:
- You notice your eyes bulging outwards
- You constantly have dry or watery eyes
- You constantly have bags under your eyes
- You experience painful sensations behind or in your eye
- You have difficulty moving your eyes
- You experience swelling in your eyelids
- You constantly experience double vision
- Your eyes are constantly red or irritated
- You experience a pressure sensation in your eye socket
If you experience any of these aforementioned issues, consider contacting us for a consultation with one of our board-certified oculofacial plastic surgeons.
For information on post-operative care, click here.