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What Causes the Eyes to Bulge?

Generally the bulging eyes are a result of an over activity of thyroid gland or hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism results when the thyroid gland releases too much hormone. Too much release of thyroid hormones result in and autoimmunity disease known as Grave’s diseases, which produces protruding or bulging of eyes.

Anatomy of Protruding Eyes

When the eyes are protruding or bulging from their normal position, it should be considered as a serious medical state. It should not be ignored. The medical terms which are used to describe the protruding eyes are Exophthalmos or Protopsis. Some children are born with protruding eyes than the usual, but some develop over time due to underlying medical problems like Grave’s diseases or hyperthyroidism.

The protruding of eyes is characterized by visibility of the white portion of the eyes. In protruding eyes condition, the white portion of the eyes is visible even without lifting the eyelids up. The colored portion of the eye is known as the Iris; generally the white portion between the upper eyelid and the iris is not visible unless the eyelids are lifted up. But in case of protruding eyes, the white portion of the eyes is easily visible. This condition should not be ignored or taken light and should be given immediate medical attention. When the bulging of an eye occurs suddenly, it could be a serious medical condition and should be treated as emergency.

What Causes an Eye to Bulge?

What Causes an Eye to Bulge?

The most common cause of protruding eyes is the hyper secretion of thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is situated in the thoracic cavity in front the neck. The gland controls, several hormones, which are helpful in regulating the metabolism. In condition of hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland secretes too many hormones.

Too much secretion of hormone results in autoimmune diseases known as Grave’s disease. In this disease the tissues around the eyes are inflamed which causes the bulging of eyes. Grave’s disease can happen to anyone. Women who are in their 20s and 30s are at a risk of hyperthyroidism or Grave’s disease.

Other possible reasons of protruding eyes include:

Neuroblastoma: A kind of malignancy which attacks the sympathetic nervous system.

Leukemia: Blood cancer or white blood cell cancer

Rhabdosarcoma: Malignancy of the soft tissues

Orbital Cellulitis: An infection of the eye tissues

Hemangioma: Clustering of blood vessels

Eye Injury: Bleeding behind the eye

Sarcoidosis: A connective tissue disease.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Bulging Eyes

If you develop protruding eyes (single or both) it should not be ignored. You should make an appointment as early as possible. You should be ready with your entire medical history, the medicines and supplements you take, to share with your physician. Other important details which your physician would ask are:

  • When was the first time the eyes were seen bulging?
  • How much is the deterioration
  • What are the other symptoms along with headache or other changes?

Some of the physical tests are conducted such as:

  • Dilated eye test
  • Vision Test
  • Slit-Lamp Test
  • CT scan or MRI
  • Imaging tests
  • Blood tests etc.

The treatment of the bulging eyes is done as per the treatment of the underlying cause of the disease. The following treatments are recommended as according to the diagnosis.

In case of Grave’s disease or any other thyroid disease the physician may recommend:

  • Anti-thyroid medication or beta-blockers
  • Surgical removal of thyroid gland completely or by radioactive iodine
  • Replacement of thyroid hormone
  • Alcohol consumption or smoking can make the condition worse therefore it is also recommended to quit smoking and drinking.


  1. American Thyroid Association. Graves’ Disease. https://www.thyroid.org/graves-disease/
  2. American Cancer Society. Leukemia. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia.html
  3. Mayo Clinic. Sarcoidosis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sarcoidosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350358

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 23, 2023

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