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Diagnosed with Graves Eye Disease? What are the three things you need to do?

  1. If you are a smoker you need to stop

  2. You need to get your thyroid levels checked

  3. You need to get your eyes examined

If you are a smoker you need to stop

Graves disease is a disease of inflammation. Inflammation is the immune systems response to infection or injury. That is what causes redness, pain, swelling and discomfort when we have a skin infection, sprained ankle or pink eye. In graves disease, the immune system is active when there is no injury or infection present.

Smoking activates the immune system. Cigarette smoke is known to be inflammatory. That is the reason that smokers have a lot of mucus and “smokers cough”. Combining graves disease with smoking is a bad idea. Why is that? Combining both together makes the graves disease worse. How worse? The graves disease will for one have worse cosmetic outcome with more swelling, irritation and cosmetic represcussions. Additionally, graves patients who smoke have a longer course of the disease….three times longer on average. Finally, graves disease patients who smoke have a higher chance of going blind from the disease. Twice the rate. In short, if you smoke you need to stop.

You need to get your thyroid levels checked

The data shows overwhelmingly that Graves eye disease is worse if the thyroid levels are not in control. This doesn’t mean that things will go back to normal if you have graves eye disease but they will get worse. This is true especially if you have a high thyroid level. If you haven’t checked already, you need to check now and have your doctor stabilize your thyroid function. Some patients have “euthyroid” graves where the levels are normal. That is fine but it needs to be checked.

You need to get your eyes examined…preferably by someone who has some experience with Graves

Bulging of the eyes, double vision, redness, irritation,swollen eyelids, eyelid closure problems and eye discomfort are just some of the symptoms that are seen in Graves disease. Most importantly graves disease can cause blindness from compression of the optic nerve. This is something that should be checked by an eye care provider. This is done with visual field testing along with OCT pictures of the nerve. If the need is there, it may be important for the patient to get an orbital decompression to prevent vision loss permanently. Call an eye doctor and make an appointment. Make sure they are familiar with Graves disease.

I hope this helps. As a graves disease specialist in Denver I operate on patients with Graves and treat and examine. Not all graves patients need surgery, steroids or radiation but all need to be monitored closely. These are three good starting facts to know if you have Graves disease.

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