How Doctors Diagnose Thyroid Eye Disease (Graves’ Orbitopathy)

Having eye problems? Here’s what the eye doctor will look for.

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Your eyes haven’t been feeling too great and your vision is starting to give you problems. You have Graves’ disease, so you know that eye complications are something to look out for. How do you know if you’ve developed eye complications from Graves’ disease? How do doctors diagnose thyroid eye disease?

The first step is to make an appointment with your doctor, who will likely refer you to an ophthalmologist. They will perform some tests to see if you have thyroid eye disease, also known as Graves’ eye disease or Graves’ orbitopathy.

Symptoms to Look For

One of the first things your doctor or ophthalmologist will look for is the classic symptoms of thyroid eye disease. A few of the symptoms they’ll look out for during an eye exam include:

  • Irritation or grittiness
  • Redness
  • Tearing
  • Dry eyes
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Eyelids pulling back or not properly covering the eyeball
  • Double vision

Tests to Diagnose Thyroid Eye Disease

Your ophthalmologist will want to do a series of tests before giving a diagnosis. That’s because thyroid eye disease can be confused with other conditions, such as Cushing's syndrome.

Some tests to diagnose thyroid eye disease include:

  • A CT scan or MRI scan to look at the eye muscles
  • An exophthalmometer to measure the displacement of the eyes

All of these tests can help the ophthalmologist identify if any bulging of the eye is present. These tests can also help track movement of your eyes over time. If you do have thyroid eye disease, these measurements will let the doctor know if any treatment they pursue is effective.

Getting Help

Keeping an eye out for eye complications of Graves’ disease is important. Some people may not have any noticeable symptoms at the beginning, so it is useful to have regular check-ups with your ophthalmologist. Early treatment can help prevent or delay eye damage, vision loss, or changes to your appearance.