People with thyroid issues must cope with many additional difficulties that crop up as a result of their condition. These can affect many parts of the body, including the eyes. It’s important to catch these adjacent conditions quickly so you can get prompt treatment. Without it, you may sustain severe damage to your eyes or even lose your vision.
Thyroid eye disease is usually mild and can get better on its own. However, it can become a serious issue that requires medical intervention. It’s vital to understand why it occurs and what symptoms to look for.
What is Thyroid Eye Disease?
Thyroid eye disease, or TED, is an autoimmune condition. It occurs when your immune system attacks the tissue of your eyes. This causes inflammation and damage in the tissue around your eye, including the connective tissue, muscles, and fatty tissue. It can also cause secondary glaucoma, as it damages the optic nerve.
TED has two phases. The first is the active or inflammatory phase. This phase can last for months and up to about three years. The stable phase is when the condition remains quiet, and follows the active phase.
Who is At Risk for Thyroid Eye Disease?
While this condition occurs most often in people with Graves’ disease, it can appear in anyone – even people without a thyroid condition. In fact, it’s estimated that one in three people will develop it. It is found most often in certain groups, such as:
- People who have a family history of thyroid eye disease, or have other family members who have developed it.
- People who are older. The median age for diagnosis is 43 years old.
- Women, and people who were assigned female at birth.
- People who have low levels of selenium.
What are the Symptoms of Thyroid Eye Disease?
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Eyes with unusual levels of moisture, such as dry or watery
- Red eyes
- Gritty, irritated eyes
- Double vision
- Trouble closing your eyes completely
- Bulging eyes
- A change in how you see colors
- Vision changes
- Pain behind your eyes, or with eye movements
If you notice these symptoms, please contact your vision care professional for an examination.