Graves' disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. The body attacks the normal thyroid tissues and can also attach the soft tissues surrounding the eye including the muscles that turn the eye. Graves' disease can lead to bulging of the eye from the eye being pushed forward from the swollen tissue behind it. They eyelids can also be affected. The upper eyelids may be too high and the lower eyelids too low due to retraction.
Diagnosis of Graves' may be made by your primary care physician or ophthalmologist who may refer you to one of our oculoplastic surgeons. Once the Graves' disease has been quiet for several months surgery can be done to restore your natural appearance. An orbital decompression is done for bulging eyes. This is where the boney walls around the eye are removed to allow the swollen tissues to expand into the surrounding sinuses. The eye can then sink back into its natural position. Following an orbital decompression, any double vision that exists can be addressed by a strabismus surgeon. The last step in the reconstructive process is addressing any eyelid abnormality.
Occassionally, the optic nerve, which is the cable that connects the eye to the brain, can be compressed by the swollen tissues in the orbit. If this occurs surgical intervention may be emergent to prevent permanent vision loss. Orbital decompression can be done through the eyelids or with a small camera through the nose.
If you or someone you know has Graves' disease and would like to know what options exist to restore your natural beauty contact our office for a consultation.