In this article:
- Thyroid function and eye health
- Common eye symptoms in thyroid dysfunction
- Managing eye health with hypothyroidism
Eye problems are not commonly associated with hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid. However, if you have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, you may be at higher risk for eye disease. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition that damages the thyroid gland. According to the American Thyroid Association, six-percent of people with Hashimoto's have eye disease related to their thyroid functioning.
Eye conditions related to the thyroid are more common with Graves' disease, an autoimmune condition causing hyperthyroidism than they are with Hashimoto's. Indeed, one of the hallmark symptoms of Graves' disease is bulging eyes. While thyroid-associated eye disease may get overlooked in people with Hashimoto's, studies find that both hyper- and hypothyroid autoimmune processes can cause uncomfortable eye symptoms.
Thyroid function and eye health
Your eye health can be compromised when your immune system mistakenly attacks its tissues. In Hashimoto's, your immune system attacks your thyroid gland with TPOAb (thyroid peroxidase antibodies) and TgAB (thyroglobulin antibodies).
In Graves' disease, TSAb (thyroid-stimulating antibodies) is primarily responsible for causing thyroid eye disease. People with Hashimoto's who also have a thyroid-associated eye disease, have higher levels of TSAab. Although there is an apparent link between thyroid antibodies and eye health, the relationship is not entirely understood by science.
Common eye symptoms in thyroid dysfunction
Some people with Hashimoto's complain of:
- Dry eyes
- Blurry vision
- Eyelid abnormalities, especially Upper Eyelid Retraction (UER)
- Periorbital swelling (swelling around the eyes)
- Loss of eyebrow and eyelash hairs
Unlike Graves' thyroid eye disease, where symptoms are overt, eye-related disease symptoms in hypothyroidism are subtle except in severe cases.
Swelling may cause blurry vision due to pressure applied to the optic nerve. Similarly, hypothyroidism may cause dry eyes. A study comparing people with Hashimoto's disease to people with a healthy thyroid found that those with Hashimoto's are more likely to have dry eyes. This result is because the tear duct of the eye is a target organ of thyroid hormones. Therefore, thyroid deficiency may predispose people with hypothyroidism to dry eyes and eye surface changes.
Managing eye health with hypothyroidism
Blurry vision and dry eyes can be the result of several conditions unrelated to your thyroid. Although under-active thyroid may play a role in eye symptoms, it is necessary to rule out other causes because appropriate treatment for dry eyes and blurry vision relies on knowing the root cause. Consider having a complete eye exam by an ophthalmologist to help rule out any possible causes related to the eye itself.
Test your vision
Your visual acuity can change as you age. If you are struggling with blurry vision, visit your eye doctor to assess for changes in your vision.
Treat your thyroid
Optimizing your thyroid function is essential for your overall health and wellbeing. Meet with your endocrinologist if you struggle with blurry vision or dry eyes. Checking your thyroid function is critical in determining the appropriate medication and dose for you. Reclaiming control of your thyroid with the right medication may help relieve irritating eye symptoms.
Sooth and treat dry eyes with artificial tears. Eye drops work by merely providing moisture to your eyes. You can find drops in preservative and non-preservative forms, and both tend to work well. You may want to avoid eye drops that also claim to reduce redness, as these drops can constrict blood vessels in your eyes and cause further irritation.
Ointments can also relieve dry eye, although they may blur your vision. Therefore, it is best to use these at night.
Your ophthalmologist may prescribe oral medication or eye drops that primarily target inflammation. Swelling around the eyes prevents your tear ducts from releasing moisture into your eye. Some prescriptive medications may include antibiotics that also have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Your ophthalmologist may recommend you install small clear tubes of medication between your lower eyelid and eye. These dissolvable daily inserts resemble a tiny grain of rice that releases medication to moisten the eye throughout the day.
Natural and alternative remedies
A warm, wet compress can do wonders for your eyes. Similarly, massaging your eyes gently can help stimulate your tear ducts. Some people find castor oil drops to be beneficial in relieving dry eye. As with adding any natural remedy, consult your ophthalmologist. Acupuncture may relieve dry eyes by reducing inflammation around the eye, and thus relieving eye irritation.
Finally, there may be yet another reason to eat more omega-3s in your diet. Although a definite conclusion cannot be made based on existing evidence, research suggests that a diet rich in omega-3s may improve dry eyes, significantly. Omega-3s benefit your thyroid as well. Eating more salmon, flaxseed, and chia seeds may contribute to improving your overall health.
A note from Paloma Health
Our team of doctors and nutritionists want you to feel your absolute best. Your thyroid plays a role in every system in your body, including your eyes. However, many other medical conditions may cause dry eyes and blurry vision. If you have trouble with your eyes, reach out to your endocrinologist to make sure your thyroid is in check.