How is the thyroid linked to eye disease?

25 May, 2023

Thyroid and Eye Disease – How is the thyroid linked to eye disease?

The thyroid gland, a small bow-shaped that sits just below the Adam’s apple at the front part of the neck, produces hormones that regulate metabolism and affect the function of various organs in the body, including the eyes.

Eye diseases related to thyroid function can occur when the thyroid gland produces too much or too little hormone, or when the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland.

Graves’ disease is the most common cause of thyroid-related eye problems. This condition occurs when the immune system produces antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland to produce excess hormones. In addition to causing hyperthyroidism, these antibodies can also cause inflammation and swelling of the muscles and tissues around the eyes, leading to a condition known as thyroid eye disease (TED). TED can cause a range of eye problems, including bulging eyes, double vision, dry eyes and eye pain.

As part of its research program, the Queensland Eye Institute is participating in a multi-centre clinical trial looking at a new treatment for thyroid eye disease. To learn more about this disease and the current clinical trial, click here .

In some cases, hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) can also lead to eye problems, although this is less common. Dry eyes and puffiness around the eyes are possible symptoms of hypothyroidism.

It’s important to manage thyroid function through medical treatment and regular monitoring to minimize the risk of eye problems. If you have a thyroid condition and experience any changes in your vision or eye appearance, it’s essential to see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam.

Picture of person's left eye looking at camera with curly brown hair partially covering this face

What are the signs of Graves’ disease?

The symptoms of Graves’ disease can vary widely, but some common signs and symptoms include:

  1. Hyperthyroidism: Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, which is characterized by an overactive thyroid gland. This can cause symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, weight loss, and tremors.
  2. Bulging eyes: Graves’ disease can cause inflammation and swelling of the muscles and tissues around the eyes, leading to a condition known as thyroid eye disease. This can cause the eyes to appear enlarged or bulging.
  3. Eye problems: In addition to bulging eyes, Graves’ disease can cause other eye problems, such as double vision, dry eyes, and eye pain.
  4. Anxiety and irritability: Graves’ disease can cause changes in mood, including anxiety, irritability, and restlessness.
  5. Fatigue: Many people with Graves’ disease experience fatigue and weakness, which can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
  6. Heat intolerance: Graves’ disease can make it difficult for the body to regulate its temperature, leading to heat intolerance and excessive sweating.
  7. Changes in menstrual cycles: Women with Graves’ disease may experience changes in their menstrual cycles, including lighter or heavier periods than usual.

Not everyone with Graves’ disease will experience all of these symptoms, and some people may not have any symptoms at all. If you suspect that you may have Graves’ disease, it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.