January is Thyroid Awareness Month. In this blog we would like to discuss Thyroid Eye Disease and how it affects many Americans.
Thyroid Eye Disease is an inflammatory disease of the eye and surrounding tissues. It is due to an autoimmune reaction. 90% of patients have Graves' disease (hyperthyroidism), while 10% have either a normal-functioning or under-functioning (Hashimoto's thyroiditis) thyroid. It occurs more frequently in women with most diagnoses occurring between 40-44 and 60-65 years of age. There is a higher incidence in patients of African and Asian/Pacific Island descent. There is also a genetic factor, so patients with parents that have or have had Thyroid Eye Disease are more likely to have it. Those that smoke can also have a more severe disease course and one that lasts longer.
The most common signs and symptoms of Thyroid Eye Disease include
* Swelling in and around the eyes
* Retraction (tightening) of the eyelids in 90% of patients. Patients have a "startled/surprised" appearance.
* Bulging of the eyeballs out of the socket in 60% of patients.
* Eye turns and double vision in 40% of patients. Swelling of the muscles that control eye movement can result in trouble turning the eyes.
* Dry eyes
* More severe effects including vision loss from damage to the optic nerve in 6% of patients. This is considered an eye emergency and needs to be treated immediately.
Treatment comes in many forms, starting with maintaining good general health, achieving normal systemic thyroid hormone levels, and smoking cessation. More serious treatment comes in the form of dry eye management, oral NSAIDs for pain, prism lenses for double vision, and oral steroids to control the inflammation. Certain surgeries are reserved for the most advanced problems.
Patients with any of the above signs and symptoms, or those with a history of thyroid issues, should see an eye doctor. Dr. Dodge has been working with many local endocrinologists for years to ensure that his patients are always carefully cared for. He takes a holistic approach to his care, not only making sure that the eyes are well, but focusing on the entire body
Remember that it is always easier to stop a problem before it starts, so be sure to get your yearly eye examinations at Visualeyes. If any signs or symptoms occur, please be sure to make an appointment immediately. Your eyes are important to us. We want to make them smile!