An Eye-Opening TED Talk

This is not an invitation to go to to watch a fascinating presentation about some life-changing event. However, I do intend for the information I provide here to be compelling and helpful for anyone who has or knows someone who has Thyroid Eye Disease (TED). That is the subject of this TED talk.

What Is Thyroid Eye Disease (TED)

Thyroid Eye Disease is a condition that usually develops in people with an overactive thyroid caused by Graves’ disease.  It can occasionally be seen in people with Hashimoto’s disease but that percentage is very low.  Sometimes it is referred to as Graves’ ophalmopathy (GO) or Thyroid-associated orbitophaty (TAO) or Grave’s orbitophathy. Whatever term your doctor uses to refer to this condition, the results are the same.

Thyroid Eye Disease is an auto-immune eye condition that causes the immune system to attack the muscles and other tissues around the eyes. The inflammation that occurs can cause the eyeballs to bulge from their sockets.  It can also cause double vision, eye discomfort and changes to your physical appearance.  I know, it sounds terrible- but it can be corrected!

TED Symptoms

A multitude of symptoms can clue you in to the onset of TED. The inflammation that occurs when the immune system attacks the tissues and muscles around the eyes may not be immediately noticeable. But, the more in tune you are with your body, the sooner you will be aware when something isn’t quite right. Symptoms of TED often include:

  • Pain in the eyes when looking up, down or sideways
  • Dryness, itching, difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Inflammation and swelling of the eye and its surrounding tissues
  • Swelling of the orbital tissues causing the eye to be pushed forward. This is referred to as exophthalmos and makes people with TED appear to have a wide-eyed or bulging stare.
  • Chronically bloodshot eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Double vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Impaired vision
  • Difficulty moving the eyes


What To Do

If you have a mild case of TED, you may simply need to use eye drops or lubricating tears a couple of times a day. Since your eyes could be more sensitive to light and wind, you may also want to wear sunglasses when outdoors and avoid being out in very windy conditions.

In more severe cases, the muscles in the eyelids tighten and pull the upper lid up and the lower lid down, creating a startled look with too much of the whites of the eyes showing. This can easily be improved with surgery. In some patients, the muscles that control eye movement may become enlarged due to swelling. This can create problems with double vision and focusing. This can also be improved by a surgery called orbital decompression.

Regular eye exams are important in detecting abnormalities in the eyes. However, there is nothing more important than being in tune with your body and when you notice anything out of the ordinary in the eye region, whether you have been diagnosed with thyroid disease or not, schedule an appointment with your doctor.