Grave's Disease: How Does It Affect Your Eyes?

Health Education
March 28, 2023
2 min read
Grave's Disease: How Does It Affect Your Eyes?

The thyroid is an endocrine gland inside the neck that regulates metabolism. A person’s metabolism is the rate at which their body processes food into energy. When afflicted with Grave's disease, the immune system attacks the healthy thyroid. This causes an excess production of the thyroid hormone, often resulting in hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms of Graves Disease

Graves’ disease is a rare condition that gets its name from a 19th century Irish doctor. In 1835, Robert Graves was the first physician to describe the condition. Prior to that, it was known in some circles as exophthalmic goitre.

Though anyone can become afflicted with Graves' disease, women and people under the age of 40 are most susceptible to it. The most prominent symptom of Graves’ disease is felt in the neck. An enlargement of the thyroid gland (otherwise known as the goiter) is the root of the problem. Other symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • unexpected weight loss
  • tremors in the hands or fingers
  • feelings of anxiousness or irritability
  • heat sensitivity and increased perspiration
  • a change in a woman’s menstrual cycles
  • erectile dysfunction in men
  • frequent bowel movements
  • fatigue
  • muscle soreness
  • thick, red skin on feet or shins 
  • heart palpitations
  • difficulty sleeping

Graves Disease Eyes Effects

Conditions like Graves’ disease are classified as autoimmune diseases because they attack the body’s healthy cells. Though researchers in the medical community aren’t sure why, Graves’ disease can also have adverse effects on the eyes. If a person is experiencing any of the following ophthalmic issues, it could be a sign of Graves’ disease:

  • irritated eyes
  • puffy eyes
  • bulging eyes
  • light sensitivity
  • general eye pain or pressure
  • blurred vision, double vision, or loss of vision

About one-third of people with Graves’ disease experience these symptoms of the eye. Known as Graves’ opthalmopathy, this condition can run from mild to debilitating. Though it is treatable and the eyes may return to their normal state over time, swelling, bulging eyes can be physically and emotionally painful.

Treatment for Graves Disease

Because Graves’ disease often leads to hyperthyroidism, treatment for Graves’ disease almost always involves treating your thyroid. Medications such as methimazole can cause the thyroid to lessen its production of the thyroid hormone. This, in turn, can sometimes stabilize metabolism. Beta-blockers and radioiodine therapy may also be administered.

In extreme cases of Graves’ disease, a part of a person’s thyroid might have to be removed. With surgery, hormone levels can return to their normal levels. However, surgery of the thyroid ‌can sometimes also lead to hyperthyroidism. As with any disease or condition, recommended treatment will vary from patient to patient.

In patients who have Graves’ opthalmopathy, eye drops are often prescribed. Medications like corticosteroids that reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system can also be helpful. Though rare, surgery to correct a person experiencing debilitating vision impairment can be an option.

Prevention of Graves Disease 

Though Graves’ disease can be hereditary, the widespread causes remain unknown. Researchers have proposed that high levels of stress, infection, or pregnancy can sometimes bring on the condition. Though there is no known way to prevent Graves’ disease, if left untreated, Graves disease can become serious. In extreme cases, it can lead to brittle bones, heart problems, and in some cases is fatal. 

Though a chronic condition, most people with Graves’ disease will see symptoms diminish over time. With proper, individualized treatment, Graves’ disease can be regulated. For more information on Grave’s disease and the best treatment plan for you, contact the staff at BASS Medical today.