Thyroid eye disease is a condition that attacks the body’s immune system and causes an overproduction of thyroxine (a hormone that helps regulate the body’s metabolism). This disease is defined by swelling that occurs behind the eyes, which causes a buildup of tissue and retraction of the eyelids. In the most severe cases, pressure from the tissue compresses the optic nerve and threatens a person’s vision. That’s when a surgical reconstructive procedure will become necessary.
During surgery, the upper retractor muscles are loosened, which releases the scar tissue and allows the upper eyelids to be moved to a more natural position. The exact same technique is carried out on the lower eyelids. In some instances, internal tissue spacer grafts may be used to raise the position of the lower eyelid higher. The incisions are then closed with absorbable sutures.
In extreme cases of Thyroid Eye Disease where the eyes begin to painfully bulge, orbital decompression is performed. With this technique, bones are removed from the orbital area to allow the eyes to move back to a normal position that is more comfortable for the patient.
During recovery, most patients experience swelling that can take 2 to 4 weeks to subside. Although minimal discomfort is expected during the first few days, it can be alleviated by prescribed medication. Individuals can usually return to work about 1 week after the sutures are removed.