If You Notice This With Your Eyes, Get Your Thyroid Checked, Doctors Say
This kind of eye irritation could mean you have thyroid disease, according to experts.
Problems with your thyroid can manifest in many ways, affecting so many different parts of your body, from the hair on your head to the nails on your toes. Sometimes the signs that your thyroid needs attention can be very subtle, which can make it hard to detect the problem early. But doctors say if you notice a particular feeling in your eyes, it could be a key indicator that something is off with your thyroid. To see if you're experiencing this subtle sign that you should get your thyroid checked, read on, and for another symptom of thyroid disease, beware that If You Can't Stop Doing This at Night, Get Your Thyroid Checked.
If you have dry, gritty eyes, you should get your thyroid checked.
Dry, gritty eyes could be a symptom of a wide-range of conditions, from common seasonal allergies to thyroid disease, specifically Graves' disease.
This immune system disorder is the result of overproduction of thyroid hormones, also known as hyperthyroidism, the Mayo Clinic explains. Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism and is found in about 1 in 200 people, MedlinePlus points out. And, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), as many as half of people with Graves' disease end up developing eye symptoms.
Thyroid eye disease (TED), also known as Graves' eye disease, "causes the muscle and fat tissue behind one or both of the eyes to become inflamed and swollen," says oculoplastic subspecialist and ophthalmologist Mark Scott Brown, MD. While Graves' disease and TED are often linked, Brown noted that they are separate diseases "and must be diagnosed and treated separately."
To learn about another sign that you should get your thyroid checked, know that If This Happens When You Eat or Drink, You Need Your Thyroid Checked.
There are other symptoms of thyroid eye disease to beware of.
Brown says some other common signs of TED include eye pain and pressure, light sensitivity, bulging eyes, eyelid retraction, and double vision. The ATA says redness or inflammation of the white part of the eyeball, excessive tearing, and swelling of the eyelids could also be symptoms of TED. If you're experiencing these symptoms, you should talk to a doctor about them and get both your thyroid and eyes checked out.
And for another condition your eyes could be hinting at, If You Have This Issue With Your Eyes, Your Heart Disease Risk Is High.
Thyroid eye disease is more common in women and people in their 30s and 40s.
According to Gary H. Cassel, MD, author of The Eye Book: A Complete Guide to Eye Disorders and Health, there are certain factors that make you more at risk for TED. "Thyroid eye disease affects more women than men, and it usually strikes people in their 30s and 40s," the doctor explains in the book. "A family history of hyperthyroidism is not uncommon. Stress and smoking have been linked to an increased chance of developing a thyroid eye disease."
Cassel also notes that TED is very unpredictable in its onset, progression, severity, and duration. For more useful health information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Treatment for thyroid eye disease varies depending on severity, from eye drops to surgery.
In the early stages of TED, eye drops and moist towels on the eyes can help ease the discomfort. If you find that your eyes dry out overnight, Cassel suggests that "taping the eyelids shut at night may help keep the eyes from drying out during sleep; in some cases, special goggles can help keep the eyes moist." In more severe cases, surgery on the eyelids may be necessary.
Of course, a key part of the treatment is also trying to return your thyroid function to normal. However, "one of the most frustrating aspects of thyroid eye disease—and a difficult feature for doctors and other health care providers as well as patients to understand—is that regulating the thyroid gland itself can sometimes have little or no effect on the course of the eye disease," Cassel writes. "If you have any kind of thyroid irregularity, your eyes may still be at risk." For another subtle sign of thyroid disease, If This Happens When You Eat or Drink, You Need Your Thyroid Checked.