What Is Thyroid Eye Disease, or Graves’ Orbitopathy?

Thyroid eye disease may drastically change how your eyes look.

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Thyroid eye disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the eye and eye socket. It is one component of Grave’s disease, which is another autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland.

What Is Graves’ Disease?

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. It produces a number of hormones that affect many aspects of health, including:

  • Energy levels
  • Weight
  • Body temperature
  • Skin, hair, and nail growth

In someone with Graves’ disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid as a “threat” to the body. These attacks cause the thyroid to overproduce thyroid hormones, causing hyperthyroidism. In fact, Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

What Is Thyroid Eye Disease?

Some people with Graves’ disease will also develop thyroid eye disease. This is also known as Graves’ ophthalmology or Graves’ orbitopathy.

Because the immune system is attacking the eye and eye socket, the area becomes inflamed. In other words, there is redness, swelling, and pain. This leads to symptoms such as:

  • Bulging of the eye from the eye socket
  • Eye pain
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Loss of vision

These symptoms can be troubling and uncomfortable. Plus, they can affect self-esteem. People with severe eye bulging might be self-conscious of their appearance, and this may affect their confidence and quality of life.

Thankfully, early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent eye damage and changes in appearance. If you have Graves’ disease, it’s important to talk to your doctor about finding a treatment that works so you can prevent complications, including thyroid eye disease.