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Can Thyroid Issues Cause Eye Problems?

Some uncomfortable eye symptoms can be related to problems with your thyroid gland.
Can Thyroid Issues Cause Eye Problems?
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The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck. This endocrine gland is responsible for regulating your body's energy use. It works with other glands and systems of the body to help determine what the body needs. For example, if you are cold or hot, this gland creates hormones that travel to the body's cells to help regulate your body temperature. When you have issues with your thyroid, whether it is overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism), it can affect your body in different ways. As the thyroid gland regulates cellular metabolism in all the cells of your body, virtually every body system is affected when there is an issue with thyroid function. 

How your thyroid and any problems it may have affects your vision is dependent on your diagnosis. Understanding your thyroid health and how it can affect your eyes and vision is the first step to ensuring your eye health remains intact while managing your thyroid condition.

Understanding hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which your thyroid underproduces crucial thyroid hormones for the body. There are a few reasons why this happens. The number one cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism may also be a result of radiation or medications, even medications used when treating hyperthyroidism. 

Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to many health conditions like infertility, cardiovascular problems, and osteoporosis.

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
  • Hair loss or thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Mood swings
  • Impaired memory
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

How do hypothyroidism and related treatment affect your vision? Regardless of what causes your thyroid condition, understanding how hypothyroidism affects your eyes will help you during your treatment process. 

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Vision issues associated with hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism itself doesn't specifically target your eyes or vision, but the diseases that cause hypothyroidism can affect your eyes. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune thyroid disorder in which your immune system attacks the thyroid gland. This autoimmune disorder often leads to hypothyroidism.

Those who suffer from Hashimoto's can endure eye or vision problems such as dry eyes, blurry vision, and loss of eyelashes or eyebrows. One study finds that those with Hashimoto's are more likely to have dry eyes than those with healthy thyroid function. This may be because the tear duct of the eye is a target organ of thyroid hormones. Thyroid deficiency may predispose people with hypothyroidism to dry eyes and eye surface changes. 

Monitoring your eye health when diagnosed with Hashimoto's or hypothyroidism will allow you and your thyroid doctor to manage your treatment plan and tackle any symptoms that arise. 

Understanding hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a disorder that occurs when your thyroid is overactive. The hormones produced in the thyroid affect things like your body temperature and your heart rate. It is ten times more likely to affect women than men and usually happens between 20-40 years old. 

A few things can cause hyperthyroidism; Graves' Disease is a disease in which your immune system perceives the thyroid as a threat and attacks it. Due to this, the thyroid produces hormones faster than it usually would. Taking a complete thyroid blood panel to determine if your thyroid is over or underactive will help determine your course of treatment. Paloma Health does not treat hyperthyroidism as it is better treated with in-person sessions. Paloma Health uses telemedicine, so we cannot take your blood pressure or heart rate, which are important to monitor in the case of hyperthyroidism.

Vision issues associated with hyperthyroidism

Graves' disease is a leading cause of hyperthyroidism in America as it affects 1 out of every 200 people. In individuals diagnosed with Graves' Disease, 30% of people may also have thyroid eye disease known as Graves' Ophthalmology. Mild cases can clear up while treating hyperthyroidism. However, others may lead to severe problems, like vision loss.

Symptoms of Graves Ophthalmopathy include:

  • Sensitive eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Red eyes
  • Bulging eyes
  • Eyes that feel gritty or dry

Consulting with an ophthalmologist can help diagnose these symptoms as Graves' Ophthalmopathy or find some other underlying vision problem for which they can help create a treatment plan. Some courses of treatment include eye drops, steroids, or even surgery, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Having the proper treatment plan in place will ensure you address your vision problems with the intensity they need and help prevent the symptoms from worsening and causing long-term damage. 

How to manage your eye health

Scheduling annual eye exams to monitor your vision is always recommended, regardless of your thyroid. While you may experience things like blurry or double vision with hyperthyroidism, it is essential to check with your ophthalmologist to find the root cause of any vision issues you may have. If you find yourself squinting or getting chronic headaches, you could very easily need a new prescription. Addressing your vision troubles is nothing to stress about, though. Buying prescription glasses and frames online can be done in minutes. Like many other parts of your body, your eyes can change over time, and without corrective surgery, a stronger prescription will be necessary. 

A note from Paloma Health

Because the thyroid is such an essential gland to the health and wellbeing of the whole body, we believe that thyroid health equates to whole-body health. Meet with a trustworthy thyroid doctor to optimize your thyroid function and start feeling better—faster!


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Katie Wilkinson

Katie Wilkinson, previously serving as the Head of Content and Community at Paloma Health, fervently explores the nexus between healthcare and technology. Living with an autoimmune condition, she's experienced firsthand the limitations of conventional healthcare. This fuels both her personal and professional commitment to enhancing patient accessibility to superior care.

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