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What Is Thyroid Eye Disease?

Thyroid eye disease is known to be very painful.
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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2014
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Thyroid eye disease is a disorder that is generally associated with other kinds of thyroid disease. It can happen with both over- and under-active thyroid disorders. The primary symptom of thyroid eye disease is that the eyeballs will swell out and protrude from the socket. This is caused by inflammation of the tissue behind the eyeball, which results in swelling and reduces the amount of available space in the socket.

When people suffer from this disorder, it can sometimes be very difficult for them to shut their eyes properly. This problem can make sleep difficult, and one of the most common treatments for severe cases is to tape the eyelids shut at night. In very severe cases, the eyelids might even be sewn shut with a surgical procedure.

Different patients with thyroid eye disease can have very different experiences. For some patients, it can be incredibly debilitating, while others have a much less difficult time. It can also be an episodic disorder for some people, and they may have extremely severe symptoms at some times, or symptoms may go away altogether for long stretches.

Thyroid eye disease is known to be very painful, and in some cases, people may have a lot of difficulty controlling their eye muscles. This can lead to crossed vision or difficulty looking in different directions. They will also often have dry eyes because of the difficulty in shutting the lids, and sometimes eye drops may be prescribed.

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Diagnosis of this disorder usually begins with an analysis of the symptoms and a look at the patient's health history followed by various tests, including blood tests and possibly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests. When doctors treat thyroid eye disease, the main goal is generally to deal with the underlying thyroid disease that is causing the disorder. This mostly involves using various medications. Once the underlying thyroid problems are addressed, the thyroid eye disease will usually go away as well, but it isn’t always immediate, and it can even take years.

For very severe cases of thyroid eye disease, surgery is sometimes necessary. The disorder in its most extreme form can actually cause permanent damage to a person’s vision, and when the normal treatment options aren’t working fast enough, surgery might be required to keep any severe damage from happening. The surgeries generally involve the doctors going in and changing the overall size of the eye socket so that the eyeball will fit more comfortably.

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