Thyroid eye disease:

Endocrine ophthalmopathy ( )

Thyroid eye disease is an eye condition in which the muscles of the eye with fatty tissue located behind the eye become inflamed. This inflammation can cause the eyes to be pushed forward (‘bulging’ or ‘staring eyes’). The bulging of the eyeballs is often in connection with thyroid diseases.

Full Description

Thyroid eye disease is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system of the body attacks the back of the eye and triggers inflammation. This causes the eyelids and eyes to become red and swollen. This condition is also known as Graves ophthalmopathy, associated mainly with an overactive thyroid due to Graves’ disease.


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Medical Conditions

Endocrine orbitopathy affects women 6 times as often as it does men. The most noticeable three symptoms are: pulled-back upper eyelid, eyeballs bulging forward, and disturbed movement of the eyes. These symptoms cause the patient to look like they were staring. Besides that, these symptoms can lead to other complaints. Due to the shrinking back of the eyelid (from inflammation and scarification of the elevating muscle of the upper eyelid), the cornea becomes dry, causing conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers. Eye movement disorders can cause the patient to see double. The prominence of the eyeball is a result of the expansion of the muscles and fatty tissue in the eye sockets. It can also lead to damage of the optical nerve.


If a thyreoid disorder is the underlying cause of endocrine orbitopathy, it needs to be treated first. Further therapeutic measures depend on the severity of the symptoms. Treatment at the acute stage is comprised of cortisone therapy or radiation. Chronic stages require treatment of symptoms (keeping the cornea moist, for example). Serious chronic stages may require a surgery.