The protruding or bulging of one or both eyeballs is known as bulging eyes. It is also scientifically called proptosis or exophthalmos. Patients with this condition tend to blink less and it may even appear as if they are always staring.
This condition is not to be confused with other eye disorders (such as Cushing’s disease, primary infantile glaucoma or extreme obesity) that change the appearance of the face or eye without causing true bulging.
What are the Causes Of Bulging Eyes?
The most common cause for bulging eyes is thyroid eye disease (also known as Grave’s disease). This is an autoimmune condition where there is inflammation in the tissues around the eye causing the eyeball to protrude. This is most commonly seen in patients with an overactive thyroid gland. Other than thyroid disease, you are also susceptible to this condition if you have suffered a serious eye injury or infection.
What are the Symptoms Of Bulging Eyes?
In a normal eye, there is no visible white matter seen between the iris and the upper eye lid. In patients with bulging eyes, there is visible white in this area and this is one of the signs of abnormal eye bulging. Other symptoms include discomfort while moving the eyes, redness, dryness, itching, pain, sensitivity to light and double vision.
As most patients with this condition also have abnormal thyroid function, the patients also have symptoms of thyroid dysfunction. These include weight loss, increase in appetite, palpitations, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, increased sweating and anxiety.
What are the Complications Of Bulging Eyes?
Many complications may develop because of bulging eyes, depending on the underlying cause of the condition. For example, most cases of thyroid eye disease result in development of double vision, redness, pain and light sensitivity.
Apart from this, if your bulging eyes prevents you from closing your eyes completely, then it will damage your cornea by causing it to dry out. Dry cornea are more susceptible to developing infections or ulcers that could lead to permanent eye damage.
In some patients, prolonged bulging of the eyes caused their optic nerves (the nerve that transmits signals to the brain) to become compressed and it increases the likelihood to developing glaucoma and leading to permanent vision damage.
How to Prevent Bulging Eyes?
What can a person do to prevent developing bulging eyes? Prevention of bulging eyes is not very easy to accomplish as this condition is generally a secondary complication of another condition like thyroid disease, eye tumor, eye injury, abnormality in the eye sockets or vessels supplying blood to eye, etc. This is mainly a condition that once developed needs to be medically treated by an ophthalmologist. Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but generally involves the use of corticosteroid to reduce inflammation and lubricating drops to decrease the dryness and itching.
Apart from the medical treatment, some steps can aid recovery and decrease the probability of developing this condition. As the major cause for bulging eyes is thyroid eye disease, the people should take steps to ensure they have a healthy thyroid function. This includes regular check-ups to evaluate thyroid hormone levels to make sure the levels remain in normal range.
Patients need to make lifestyle adjustments such as they need to maintain a well-balanced diet that is rich in vitamin A and D, calcium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. These can be obtained from eating foods such as flax seeds, salmon and green leafy vegetables. Patients can also add dietary supplements like bugleweed extract and glucomannan to their diet to help normalize their thyroid levels. Regular eye exercises help strengthen eye muscles and retain the normal look. In addition, the patients need to quit smoking as it will aggravate their condition and slow down the recovery process and they need to limit alcohol consumption as there have been reports associating alcohol consumption and hyperthyroidism.
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Proptosis (bulging eyes). https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/proptosis/basics/definition/sym-20050942
- British Thyroid Foundation. (2021). Thyroid Eye Disease. https://www.btf-thyroid.org/thyroid-eye-disease
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-strategies-to-ease-anxiety-201604139441
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Glaucoma. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839
- American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2021). What Are Eye Exercises and Can They Improve Vision? https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/eye-exercises-improve-vision