Eyes & Graves Disease in Maine

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

About Eyes & Graves Disease in Maine

Eyecare patients in Maine with Graves Disease might find it useful to learn a bit more about their eyes. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that leads to over activity of the thyroid gland, known as hyperthyroidism. In Graves’ Disease, white blood cells attack the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland responds by secreting an excess amount of thyroid hormone. Because of this excess of hormones, the thyroid gland enlarges and metabolism increases. Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease is often referred to as thyroid eye disease because of its ocular manifestations.

Graves’ disease affects the eyes because proteins in the eye muscles and connective tissues within the eye socket appear similar to that of the thyroid gland. The immune system of a patient with Graves’ disease gets confused by these similarities and ends up attacking the muscles and tissues within the eye. The symptoms that occur from this attack can vary from patient to patient and can depend on the severity of the disease.

The ocular symptoms of Graves’ disease include:
  • swelling of the eyelids and tissue around the eye
  • bulging of the eyes
  • a constant stare
  • retraction of eyelids (leading to the appearance of protrusion)
  • dry eyes and dry eye symptoms, such as watering and redness, and the feeling of something being in the eyes
  • pressure behind the eyes sockets
  • double vision
  • loss of vision
In severe cases of Graves’, the cornea can ulcerate, leading in permanent loss of vision. The optic nerve can be affected and the swelling that occurs can lead to glaucoma that damages the optic nerve. Exposure can be caused by protrusion of the eye and retraction of the lids, making it difficult to close the eye, leaving the cornea vulnerable.

There is no cure for Graves’ disease. Treatment for the ocular manifestations of this disease can range from taping the eyelid shut to avoid exposure to using artificial tears and gels to alleviate the symptoms of dry eye. Oral steroids may be used to treat double vision that can be a result of inflammation. Eye surgery may also be required to treat certain symptoms. It is also very important to make sure that medication to regulate the thyroid is included in treatment. However, thyroid treatment will not guarantee that the eyes will not continue to deteriorate. Therefore, patients with Graves’ disease should be followed by an ophthalmologist. If you have Graves’ Disease and need to see a physician, please call Eyecare Medical Group at 888-374-2020 or visit us at facebook.com/eyecaremedicalgroup to schedule an appointment.