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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.
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