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Playing Tricks on Your Eyes


Can you find the panda? If you had a problem trying to find the panda bear in a sea of smiling snowmen, you’re not alone. The newest picture to take over the cyber universe is an Where’s Waldo-type puzzle that is straining everyone’s eyes and testing their eyesight, but did you know that your eyesight may be compromised if you have a thyroid disorder?

find-the-panda Picture by Gergely Dudas aka Dudolf

The thyroid disorder that can cause problems with the eyes is known as Graves’ disease. Grave’s disease is an autoimmune disease which forces the thyroid into a hyper state, over-producing the thyroid hormones. This happens because the immune system begins releasing an antibody that mimics the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), a hormone released by the pituitary gland to instruct the thyroid to make the proper hormones. With the fake TSH and the actual TSH telling the thyroid to produce hormones, it goes into overdrive leaving the individual with hyperthyroidism.

Graves’ disease is characterized by many symptoms which include,

  • Heat intolerance
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea or frequent bowel movements
  • Rapid/irregular heartbeat
  • Increased appetite
  • Change in menstrual cycles
  • Erectile dysfunction or reduced libido

The most common symptom, however, is the protrusion or bulging of the eyes. The eyes become a target to the autoimmune disease which attacks the eye muscles and connective tissue within the eye socket leading to swelling/inflammation and scarring. Symptoms associated with Graves’ disease, as it pertains to the eyes, is from the swollen tissue and includes excessive watering, light sensitivity, redness, and eyelid swelling. This is different and more severe than the eye symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism (eyelid spasms and mild eye bulge) and is known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy.

The protrusion of the eye can cause even more problems because it can stretch the optic nerve leading to altered vision (blurriness, color blindness). Because the swelling may affect the muscles, the individual can experience eye soreness and fatigue, as well as an inability to move the eyes in different directions. If not treated properly, the vision impairment could be permanent.

While the conditions may be simultaneous, the eye problem is not a result of the hyper function of the thyroid, but rather of the underlying autoimmune condition which affects both tissues of the thyroid gland and of the eyes.

If you had a problem finding the panda, don’t worry, many people did, but if you have experienced any of the symptoms above, make sure to speak with your doctor about the possibility of Graves’ disease and what you can do about it.

About the Author

Naomi Parker

Patient Advocate

Naomi Parker is a patient advocate that is enthralled by the medical field. Hypothyroidism became a topic of interest over the last few years while she worked amongst alternative medicine doctors as a front office assistant. She believes that information is key and strives to become better informed so as to help others achieve success and wellness.

Naomi has written various articles concerning hypothyroidism including information on diagnostics and treatment. She enjoys learning alongside others and passing on vital information regarding this condition. Naomi is actively monitoring and writing for the National Academy of Hypothyroidism both on the site and social media.

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5 years ago

Couple points:

–Some cases (about 6%) of Thyroid Eye Disease are found in Hashimoto’s patients who do not have Graves.

–However, it is possible to have both Graves AND Hashimoto’s.

I have Hashi, and was stable for several years; then a new doctor severely underdosed me (because my TSH is always suppressed and he thought he knew better than the T3 test), and as a result I had a severe antibody attack that resulted in TED, which has in turn become neuropathy in the skin of my face, ears, and neck.

I’ve taken up reading JCEM in sheer self-defense.

3 years ago
Reply to  Rez

Omg this is exactly what happened to me last year, i was just in the first stages of the autoimmune disease, at the time i was hashimotos with very high tpo antibodies. The new doctor overdosed me with t3 and t4 and i become very ill and as a result developed the grave disease and antibodies too. my eyes are in very bad conditions since then, i feel like my life is over ….:(

5 years ago

I visited my eye doctor today. Who said my eye is OK but cannot understand why I am losing vision I have ted . they have no idea what to do

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