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Graves' Disease Can Show Up in Your Eyes

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Posted at 4:21 PM, Jun 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-09 01:49:51-04

DALLAS, Texas. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Graves’ disease has been known as an autoimmune disease which affects the thyroid. It has also been known to cause heart palpitations, mood swings and hair loss; sometimes for women, it has made their eyes bulge. Now, there could be a surgical solution for patients.

Graves’ disease caused Tracy Farrow’s thyroid to be overactive. It also caused enlarged muscles and fat behind the eye.

“My eye lashes came all the way up past my eyebrow, so my eye was just very big,” Farrow told Ivanhoe.

It looked bad, it hurt, and it threatened Tracy’s eyesight. Now, she has gotten back to normal thanks to an advanced surgical approach.

“We’ll actually take this outer part and remove it, and that way we create what we call a balanced orbital decompression,” said Dr. Grant Gilliland, Oculoplastic & Orbital Surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

Using a CT scan as a guide, an oculoplastic surgeon went in on one side and an ear nose and throat surgeon went in through the sinuses. That way they were able to clear out enough space for the eye to move back into the socket.

“We’ve even had some patients that were completely blind that we’ve done this procedure on and gotten their vision back to 20/20,” Dr. Gilliland said.

This technique has shown to improve outcomes by reducing double vision, reducing pain, improving sight, and improving appearance.

“The best part of it is that we can do it in a way that they get a good outcome and don’t have to have future issues, and they can get back into work and get back into their normal lifestyle pretty quickly,” said Dr. Amol Bhatki, Otolaryngologist/ENT Surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

Farrow exclaimed, “It’s really a miracle what all they can do.”

It has been helping people like Tracy get their eye health and confidence back.

The procedure has been covered by most insurance companies including Medicare.

BACKGROUND: In the U.S. an estimated three million people have Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is a disease that causes an increase in thyroid hormone. It’s most common in women and before the age of 40, but can occur in anyone. The symptoms include anxiety, weight loss, bulging eyes, enlarged thyroid gland, heat sensitivity, and a tremor in the hands and fingers. In Graves’ disease, the body produces an antibody to one of the cells in the thyroid gland. The binding of this antibody then causes more thyroid hormone to be produced. Treatment for Graves’ includes radioactive iodine therapy, beta blockers, anti-thyroid medications and surgery. Smokers are more likely to develop Graves’ disease than nonsmokers. (Source 1, Source 2)

GRAVES’ OPTHALMOPATHY: Up to 80 percent of Graves’ disease patients develop eye symptoms, a condition known as Graves’ opthalmopathy. However, 10 percent of those diagnosed with Graves’ opthalmopathy do not have Graves’ disease. Graves’ opthalmopathy affects the extraocular muscles, which move the eyeball up, down and side to side. The symptoms include dry eyes, double vision, bulging eyes, light sensitivity, excessive tearing and difficulty closing the eyes. Graves’ opthalmopathy patients have an increased risk of developing glaucoma. Ointments may help reduce eye swelling and dryness. Medications, such as corticosteroids, may also be used to reduce inflammation. (Source 1, Source 2)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: In serious cases of Graves’ opthalmopathy, surgery may be required. Often times, patients undergo a series of surgeries to correct the problems. First is the orbital decompression surgery, where they remove the bone tissue to clear space for the inflamed muscle and eye. This surgery also improves vision. The second step would be surgery on the eye muscles to realign them. In this step, muscles at the back of the eye are cut and re attached further back on the eye. Because the disease causes the eyelids to open wider than usual, another surgery to reposition the upper lid may be performed as the third part of the series. (Source 1, Source 2MORE.