In Graves' ophthalmopathy the tissues and muscles behind the eyes become swollen. The eyeballs may stick out farther than normal. This can occur
before, after, or at the same time as other signs of
Most people who develop Graves' ophthalmopathy have one or more of
the following symptoms:
- Dry, itchy, irritated eyes
- A staring
or bug-eyed look
- Sensitivity to light; watery, teary eyes; and a
feeling of pain or pressure around the eyes
- Difficulty closing the
- Double vision, especially when looking to the
A small number of people have symptoms because the tissues around
their eyes are inflamed (acute inflammatory thyroid eye disease). These
- Swelling of the eyelids and tissues around the
eyes, especially in the morning.
- Swelling of the membrane that
covers the eyeball and lines the eyelid.
- Pain when moving the eyes
up and down and from side to side.
Most mild problems caused by Graves' ophthalmopathy go away on their
own in 1 to 4 months. Graves' ophthalmopathy may also get better if you
take antithyroid medicine.
You will likely have an eye exam to make sure you do not have another
eye problem, such as a tumor.
To help reduce dryness and discomfort, your doctor will treat your
symptoms of Graves' ophthalmopathy. He or she will use artificial tears, medicated eyedrops,
and protective glasses or sunglasses. If the condition is diagnosed early, you
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as
aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, to relieve pain and inflammation. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
If you have severe inflammation of the muscles and tissues around
your eyes, you may need
corticosteroid medicines, immunosuppressants, or
radiation therapy. Surgery is only done if you have
serious vision problems or nerve damage, or if you want to change the way your
Ophthalmopathy may get worse if your thyroid levels are out of
balance. It may also get worse temporarily if you are given radioactive iodine
Smoking increases your chances of developing Graves' ophthalmopathy. And it can make the condition worse.