Thyroid and Your Eyes

By Dr Eric Drake

Every so often, during an eye exam, I’ll notice some things that cause me to ask a patient if they have ever been diagnosed with any thyroid disorders. More often than not the patient knows they have a thyroid problem but are unaware of the possible affects it can have on their eyes, specifically, hyperthyroidism.

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, which can affect many different parts of the eye and surrounding tissues. One of the problems that can occur is the lacrimal gland, which produces our tears, may become inflamed and cause dry, irritated eyes. Lubrication with eye drops can help but often anti-inflammatory drops are also needed. This process may also cause the eyelids to look “puffy” or make a person look like they have baggy eyelids.

The muscles that control the movement of the eyes may also become inflamed and fibrotic or harden over time. This can cause problems with double vision and focusing. Usually it can be corrected with prism glasses, but in some cases surgery is needed.

Even more concerning is the possible build up of fatty tissue directly behind the eye. This can cause two main problems. First, the eye is pushed forward causing a “bulging” or “stare” appearance. This can lead to chronic dry eye due to over exposure of the front surface of the eye. Second, this tissue can compress the optic nerve which functions as the transmitting cable between the eyes and brain to carry the message of vision. If compressed, a patient may notice abnormal color vision, lights may seem dimmer, and blurry vision. These changes may be reversed with treatment but could progress to permanent vision loss if left untreated. Call your doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

With good eye care and close monitoring these complications can be caught early and handled with less traumatic treatments. If your concerned or have questions if your thyroid disorder is affecting your eyes call us and make your appointment today. 435-673-5577 or