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Information for patients and families
Thyroid eye disease (NORD)
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The disease has an active phase, which can last from six months to two years, where inflammation, swelling, and damage occur.
The inactive phase occurs when disease progression stops, but the tissue damage and symptoms remain.
Signs and symptoms can vary between individuals, but commonly the white parts of the eyes are inflamed.
Additionally, the eyes can feel irritated, uncomfortable, and have a “gritty” feeling.
They may also be constantly watery or be dry.
The eyelids can become inflamed and retracted, so they won’t close completely and blinking or trying to close the eyes can be painful.
Vision changes may also occur, including blurry vision; double vision; or an intolerance to bright lights.
In severe cases, vision may be threatened from increased pressure on the main nerve of the eye that carries visual information to the brain; or from dryness leading to erosion of the cornea, which is the outer part of the eye.
Thyroid eye disease usually occurs during middle age.
While it’s more frequent among females, males tend to have more severe cases.
Environmental factors such as smoking may contribute but there’s also a variety of genetic factors.
Thyroid eye disease is a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the muscles and tissues around the eyes. It is caused by an overactive thyroid gland where there is a progressive inflammation that damages tissues around the eyes. Signs and symptoms of thyroid eye disease include eye redness, eye swelling out of the eye socket, called exophthalmos, and bulging, as well as double vision and sensitivity to light. Treatment may involve medications like corticosteroids, immunosuppressive drugs, and in some cases, orbital decompression surgery to relieve pressure on the eye.
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