When you get diagnosed with a thyroid disorder there are a multitude of symptoms/ailments that you have to take into account. For those with Graves disease an additional, and rare, side effect could be thyroid eye disease (TED). 

What is TED?

Thyroid eye disease can sometimes occur in people who have Graves disease (the autoimmune disease which causes an over-active thyroid) rather than those with Hashimotos. The antibodies which attack the thyroid attack the cells at the back of the eye as they are the same shape as the thyroid so they see them as the same thing and as a danger to the body.

The best way to describe the most common symptoms is that they are very similar to some of those in chronic hayfever – redness of the eyes, more or less tears. It can also cause the eyes to push forward in the sockets and in rare, more severe, cases cause the muscles to point in different directions resulting in double vision.

Treatment options

In most cases, people are given replacement tears which solves the lack of tears issue. People can also be advised to take pain killers to relieve the pain caused. It has been proven that selenium helps to improve the condition and people are strongly advised to stop smoking – thyroid eye disease is much worse in males and those who smoke and even certain ethnicities (more common in caucasians).

In the worst cases, steroid injections are prescribed which can be quite painful due to where they are injected and there is an operation to correct the muscles from pointing in different directions, as well as an operation to improve cosmetic appearance if required.

This isn’t a condition that can be cured (at the moment) so the best way to tackle it is by improving the thyroid function and definitely to stop smoking. If a sufferer stops smoking the condition tends to improve vastly in two years.


This information was taken from a talk by Professor Stephen Robinson at a Thyroid Friends meeting in London on 23rd September. For more information on the topic, visit the British Thyroid Foundation website.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *