THYROID EYE DISEASE (GRAVES’ DISEASE)

Approximately 30% of people with Graves’ disease show some signs and symptoms of thyroid eye disease. These signs and symptoms affect the muscles and fat around the eyes which can result in:

  • Proptosis (Exophthalmos) – the eyes appear more prominent and bulge forward often beyond the bony orbital rim.
  • Eyelid retraction – the upper eyelids rest too high and the lower eyelids rest too low on the eye, resulting in decreased protection provided by the natural lid.
  • Lagophthalmos – eyes cannot close all the way.
  • Dry Eye – with increased exposure to the environment, eyes are more likely to experience dryness and irritation.
  • Tearing – can be caused by blockage of the tear duct (which is a potential side effect of radioactive iodine ablation) or by a change in the position of the tear duct opening in the eyelid.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition. Seeing an endocrinologist for management of thyroid hormone levels is important if you have been diagnosed with this condition. However, normalizing thyroid levels does not necessarily result in an improvement of the eye deformities caused by Graves’, which is why treatment from a restorative medical professional is sometimes needed.

THYROID EYE DISEASE TREATMENT

There is usually an active phase of thyroid eye disease, when the deformities worsen. Eventually, the disease will plateau. If the disease causes enough swelling, it can compress the optic nerve, resulting in blindness if untreated. In this situation, strong anti-inflammatory medications may be given or emergent surgery performed to decompress the orbit.

Orbital decompression is performed in the operating room under general anesthesia. Bone is shaved from the orbit (eye socket) and excess orbital fat is removed to allow the eye to settle back into a natural position. Patients usually go home the same day as surgery.

If the vision has not been affected, the optimal time to treat thyroid eye disease is after it has passed the active phase and the deformities have stabilized for a minimum of six months. Mild symptoms may be managed conservatively with topical eye drops and lubricants. About 20% of patients may require surgical treatment. Surgery for thyroid eye disease is usually performed in steps, first treating the proptosis (eye bulging), any eye-motility problems (strabismus), and then treating issues such as eyelid retraction. 

RELATED PROCEDURES

RETRACTION REPAIR & LAGOTHALMOS

Eyelid surgery such as eyelid retraction repair and treatment for lagophthalmos is performed under sedation. You may expect to go home on the day of surgery.

Recovery from Thyroid Eye Disease Treatment

Most patients only experience mild discomfort after treatment for thyroid eye disease and can resume normal daily activities within a week of surgery. Tylenol is recommended to ease the discomfort, which should subside within a few days. Arnica and Bromelain are recommended to take prior as well as after surgery to minimize the bruising and swelling of the face.

Minor swelling and bruising generally resolve within 1-2 weeks of surgery. Cold compresses can help you through the healing period, and we may prescribe antibiotic ointment and/or eye drops.

If you had surgical treatment, Dr. Kashyap will see you for follow-up visits and will remove any your sutures seven to 10 days after your procedure. Please avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise for two weeks.

Dr. Kashyap will let you know when it is safe for you to resume wearing eye makeup and contact lenses, usually within one to two weeks.

If you experience dry eye after surgery, we will recommend artificial tears to keep your eyes lubricated.

Dr. Kashyap will discuss her assessment with you and go over your personal plan and what to expect after surgery during your preoperative visit. If you are interested in learning more about thyroid eye disease treatment, call us today at (347) 788-1841 to schedule a consultation today.

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