What Happens If You Don’t Treat Thyroid Eye Disease?

Also called Graves’ orbitopathy, this eye condition comes with serious risks.

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Symptoms of thyroid eye disease (also called Graves’ orbitopathy) may seem tolerable at first. You might avoid seeing a doctor because it’s “not a big deal.” However, like many health conditions, thyroid eye disease can get worse if it goes untreated. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent many of the complications—including vision loss—of this inflammatory disease.

The Risks of Untreated Thyroid Eye Disease

First of all, even mild symptoms of thyroid eye disease can have a negative effect on quality of life. Symptoms like grittiness and eye pain can be uncomfortable, distracting, and stressful. However, if your thyroid eye disease goes untreated, the symptoms could get much worse.

One risk of untreated thyroid eye disease is compressive optic neuropathy. This is when inflammation around the optic nerve is severe. The inflammatory substances push down on the optic nerve, which worsens vision.

Another risk is corneal exposure. Your cornea is the clear layer that forms the front of your eye. Normally, the eyelids help cover part of the cornea, which helps to protect it. However, thyroid eye disease can cause the eyes to bulge out and the eyelids to retract back. This exposes the cornea, making it more vulnerable to damage.

One of the biggest risks of untreated thyroid eye disease is vision loss. The most common vision problems with Graves’ orbitopathy include blurriness and double vision. Colors may also appear somewhat dull. In severe cases, thyroid eye disease may cause complete vision loss.

The Importance of Treatment

The good news is that early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent many of the problems linked to thyroid eye disease. Vision loss is often irreversible, so preserving eye health is critical. Plus, treatment can help relieve unpleasant symptoms like gritty, watery eyes. Learn more here about how doctors treat thyroid eye disease here.

In other words, don’t wait to talk to a doctor about your eye symptoms. Starting treatment when your symptoms are still mild can help prevent irreversible damage to your eyes and your vision.