Eye Problems and Hyperthyroidism


Hyperthyroidism is the condition in which the thyroid gland becomes overactive and overproduces hormones. Hyperthyroidism is mostly caused by Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder. The eyes are especially susceptible to this condition.

Thyroid eye disease

Graves’ eye disease, also known as thyroid eye disease or Graves’ ophthalmopathy, is an autoimmune disorder in which the thyroid gland is attacked by the immune cells, which is shown by producing excessive thyroid hormone. When the immune system attacks the connective tissues around the eyes and the eye muscles, it causes the eye to be inflamed and swelling, leading to many eye problems. The autoimmune attack often targets the eye tissues because they contain proteins that are quite similar to the immune system as those of the thyroid gland.

Women are 5-6 times more likely to get the disease than men. Smokers are also at significantly higher risk to develop the condition.


In thyroid eye disease, the eye muscles and fatty tissues within the eye socket become swollen. The eyeball is pushed forward, having a bad effect on the eye movements. It can influence vision in severe cases. Patients could experience the following symptoms:

The eyelids can’t close completely because of the bulging eyes, leading to dry, irritated, itchy eyes

You may feel pain and puffiness around the eyes. The tissues around the eyes and the eyelids especially get swollen in the morning.

A bug-eyed or staring look

When the muscles around the eyes are attacked, it restricts the eye’s normal movements, resulting in double vision and pain when moving the eyes from side to side, up and down.

Diagnosis and treatment

Mild problems caused by Graves’ eye disease can often go away on their own in 1 to 4 months. However, bulging eyes and other physical changes which are triggered by the swelling may remain as the tissues that have been stretched may not return to their original form. The purpose of the treatment is primarily to prevent the swelling from occurring during the course of the inflamed period and to alleviate discomfort.

At the early stages of this eye disease, ocular lubricants (artificial tears) and protective glasses may be enough. Patients can use aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

If the disease gets worse and you have severe inflammation, you may need immunosuppressants such as prednisolone to dampen down the immune system which is producing abnormal antibodies. If you have severe vision problems or diseases and the optic nerve is compressed, surgical treatment may be recommended.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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