Thyroid Eye Disease

Thyroid eye disease, also known as Graves' eye disease, sometimes occurs in those with Graves' hyperthyroidism. In patients with thyroid disease, the thyroid gland enlarges and produces excess hormones, which can cause an abnormal reaction in the muscles and fatty tissue around the eyes. Eye muscles and connective tissue in the eye sockets are particularly vulnerable to excess hormones, perhaps because the tissue contains proteins that the immune system recognizes as belonging to the thyroid gland. Symptoms may include dry or watery eyes, a feeling of pressure in the eye socket, bulging eyes, sensitivity to light, double vision, or other vision issues. Swelling may cause the eyes to look puffy, and in some cases muscles may tighten and pull back from the eyes, causing a perpetually startled look.

Roughly one million Americans are diagnosed with thyroid eye disease each year, and women are more than five times more likely to get the disease than men. Smokers have an increased risk of developing the disease as well, and symptoms often are worse than in non-smokers. In most patients, the eye symptoms tend to improve if the thyroid issues are treated. However, the eyes should be continually monitored, as symptoms can return.

Why UAB

The specialists at UAB Callahan Eye Hospital use the most advanced technology and are known for working together to treat the full range of both common and complex corneal problems. From cataract and corneal surgeries to highly specialized contact lenses, Callahan features the expertise, experience, and cutting-edge equipment needed to treat the most challenging corneal conditions. Patients come here from around the world and nation because we don’t just treat eye disease – we empower patients to take control of their eye health.

Callahan is the only full-service facility in Alabama specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of the eye and one of only a few worldwide that is entirely devoted to advancements in ophthalmology. That reputation is supported by 16 operating rooms dedicated to eye surgery and a 24/7 eye emergency room that is the region’s only Level I Ocular Trauma Center. More than 11,000 surgeries are performed at UAB Callahan Eye Hospital each year, and we conduct more reconstructive eye procedures than any other facility in the world.

Our facility is home to more than two dozen ophthalmologists, many of whom are named among the top doctors in their fields nationally. Callahan is widely recognized for excellence in patient care, having consistently earned prestigious awards from health care consulting group Press Ganey, and in 2017 Callahan was named as one of the “100 Great Places to Work in Healthcare” by Becker’s Hospital Review.

Callahan also is known for pioneering developments in surgical instruments, devices, and procedures used by ophthalmologists across the globe. As part of the UAB Medicine academic medical center, Callahan is actively involved in ongoing research and clinical trials. Many of our ophthalmologists have received funding from prestigious research organizations and institutions and collaborate in clinical care to bring the latest in scientific discovery to our patients.

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Clinical Trials

UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid eye disease . We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

View Clinical Trials