There are different kinds of eye diseases that are linked to hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid. Thyroid problems can give rise to the following ophthalmic conditions:
- Thyroid eye disease
- Thyroid-associated orbitopathy
- Graves' eye disease
- Graves’ orbitopathy
(‘Orbit’ in this context refers to the bony cavity in the skull containing the eyeball.)
Thyroid eye disease can be present without any outward evidence of thyroid dysfunction. It can also precede, succeed or occur simultaneously with hyperthyroidism. It is an autoimmune disorder caused by a reaction of antibodies, lymphocytes, proteins, connective tissue and fat around the eyeball.
The most prominent symptom of a hyperthyroid-related eye disease is bulging eyes that give an appearance of a round-eyed stare. The patient may feel pain while moving the eyeball in any direction. Other issues that can also surface are diplopia (double vision) and itchiness or irritation in the eye.
Treatment options for the condition are based on the specific symptoms that the patient demonstrates.
- Irritation in the eyes is generally attended to by artificial tear drops that can help in lubricating dry eyes.
- Agaze eyes is a condition that tends to go away as soon as the hyperthyroidism treatment is started. Severe conditions may require cosmetic surgery for the eyelid to appear more natural.
- Diplopia does not require any treatment if instances of double vision occur infrequently. However, if quality of life is impaired significantly, special glasses called prisms are used to facilitate normal work. Severe conditions may also require surgery.
- Vision impairment caused due to hyperthyroidism may need strong immunosuppressive drugs. These drugs can cause the inflammation around the eyes to reduce. Alternately, radioactive iodine therapy (RAI) or surgery known as orbital decompression is used to correct the condition.
It should be noted that all thyroid medications that are used to suppress immune systems are usually powerful steroids that help in reducing inflammations. Side effects of steroids include weight gain, thinning of bones and skin, and diabetes. Once on steroids, the patient has to be monitored strictly. Stopping the drug is also a slow process where the dose is reduced over a period of time.
In some patients, the condition of thyroid eye disease may continue to worsen even after hyperthyroidism has been treated and brought under control. This may lead to swelling of the optic nerve and ultimately to blindness. For such patients, the first attempt to correct the eye condition is to attempt a RAI treatment. For those patients who do not respond to RAI treatment, orbital decompression surgery or immunosuppressive drugs are then pursued.
There is no satisfactory treatment of thyroid eye disease per se. It is actually a symptom caused by thyroid malfunction; therefore it is important that the cause behind the eye condition be removed. Most of the patients tend to recover once the thyroid function is restored. Alternative thyroid treatments can be of great help to avoid such serious side effects that related to conventional thyroid treatment .
Prevention is always better than a cure! Natural thyroid medication consists of herbs and natural diets, and includes yogic exercises and meditations that can help in avoiding conditions that need harsh chemical drugs.