Graves’ disease has widespread effects on the human body. The disease causes excessive production of thyroid hormones, which play a role in multiple body systems. The extra hormones cause systemic issues that can be hard to diagnose, especially those related to the eyes.
The eye-related symptoms of Graves’ disease are known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy. Other names include Graves’ orbitopathy, thyroid eye disease, and Graves’ eye disease. These symptoms affect up to 50% of Graves’ disease patients and include inflammation of the eyes, eye muscles, and surrounding tissues. Graves’ ophthalmopathy can considerably diminish the quality of life for its sufferers. Researchers and doctors still do not completely understand this disease, making treatment difficult in severe cases.
Symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy may display during an episode of hyperthyroidism, but not always. Some people show Graves’ ophthalmopathy symptoms years before or after hyperthyroidism. The most common symptoms include:
Advanced cases may display:
Some risk factors of Graves’ ophthalmopathy mirror those of Graves’ disease, including being female and under 40 years old. Other risk factors for Graves’ ophthalmopathy include:
Some risk factors have only been identified in small studies and need larger clinical trials for better understanding of their role in Graves’ ophthalmopathy.
The most important thing while treating Graves’ ophthalmopathy is to maintain normal thyroid hormone levels, using either medication or surgery. Once thyroid hormone levels are stable, treating the symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy is the next priority. Common treatments include:
Severe cases may require surgery of the eyelid, eye muscles, or orbital decompression. Surgery can have impressive results for Graves’ ophthalmopathy patients, but less invasive treatments should be exhausted first.
If you are worried about Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism affecting your eyes, come see our team of experts at the J. Justin Older Eyelid Institute in Tampa. We can evaluate your eyes and provide a comprehensive plan to combat any eye conditions, including Graves’ ophthalmopathy. Call (813) 971-3846 in Tampa or (727) 343-3004 in St. Petersburg to schedule your initial consultation today.