Graves eye disease, also known as thyroid related ophthalmopathy, is an autoimmune condition affecting the thyroid gland along with the muscles and connective tissue around the eyes. It is characterized by rapid heartbeat, sweating, high blood pressure, irritability, fatigue, weight loss, heat intolerance, and hair loss. Eye symptoms can range from mild to severe. When the eyes are affected, they may appear more prominent. Sensitivity to light, a dry gritty feeling and tearing are common complaints. Double vision and sometimes even loss of vision can occur on rare occasions.
Approximately one million Americans are diagnosed with Graves eye disease each year. Women are five to six times more likely than men to get the condition. Cigarette smokers are at significantly increased risk.
Initial treatment includes the use medications to control the thyroid but the condition can progress even with properly maintained thyroid function. Most patients experience relief from dry eyes by using artificial tears daily and gels or ointments at night. Some patients also use patches at night or tape their eyes shut to keep them from becoming dry if the eyelids do not close properly. Occasionally surgery, oral steroids or radiation treatments are necessary.
The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that a person has Graves eye disease. However, if you experience these symptoms, call us for a complete examination to evaluate for this common eye condition. Proper monitoring and treatment of the symptoms is necessary to maintain healthy vision for years to come.