What Causes Thyroid Eye Disease, or Graves’ Orbitopathy?

If you have Graves’ disease, how can you reduce your risk of eye problems?

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Thyroid eye disease is a difficult condition that affects around 15 percent of patients with Graves’ disease. It’s also known as Graves’ eye disease, Graves’ orbitopathy, or Graves’ ophthalmology. If you have Graves’ disease, you might worry about your risk of thyroid eye disease. After all, it can be uncomfortable, affect your vision, or even hurt your self-esteem.

Thyroid eye disease is an autoimmune disease. Like many autoimmune diseases, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what causes it. Still, researchers know a few factors that can put someone more at risk.

What Increases the Risk of Thyroid Eye Disease

The main risk factor for Graves’ eye disease is, of course, having Graves’ disease. It is considered a complication of Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease causes hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid. When you have this disease, your immune system attacks the thyroid, resulting in more thyroid hormone than what your body actually needs.

For people who have Graves’ disease, there are different factors that appear to increase a person’s chance of thyroid eye disease. Most notably, risk factors for thyroid eye disease include:

  • Genetics
  • Family history
  • Female sex
  • Smoking
  • Past radiation therapy
  • Poorly controlled Graves’ disease and thyroid function

Getting Help

If you’re suffering from thyroid eye disease, talk to your ophthalmologist or endocrinologist. Early intervention can help prevent the disease from worsening. This may not only save your vision, but also help you preserve your appearance. Together, you and your doctor can come up with an appropriate treatment plan.