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What is the Cause of Bulging Eyes?

How many diseases can you actually think of while going through the never-ending list of medical science? The answer is, innumerable. While you are forced to rush through the medical encyclopedia again and again over the most uncommon disease you have just learnt about, there, at many places of their world, there are thousands who suffer from diseases unknown to most of us.

Bulging eyes is just that disease, which could give you nightmares and they are not very common but are absolutely disastrous. In medical terms bulging or protruding eyes is called proptosis or exophthalmos, which is caused by rave disease, a condition where the thyroid gland is overactive (hyperthyroidism).

Bulging eyes is very different from prominent eyes. Generally, some genetic disorder may cause the face and eyes to swell up, but that is not actual bulging. In fact, prominent eyes are mostly harmless.

Symptoms to Looks for

Apart from just the bulging of the eyes, there are many other symptoms by which you can tell whether a person is suffering from proptosis or not. However, some of the symptoms are might just give you the hint so that you can go and get medical help.

Loss of Vision: The person affected will start to lose vision gradually.

Eye Pain or Redness: Mind or severe pain can happen, along with redness.

Headache: And since the eyes are so much affected, the head may also start to pain in some cases.

Fever: Mild to high fever can be experienced.

What is the Cause of Bulging Eyes?

What is the Cause of Bulging Eyes?

The primary cause for bulging eyes is the Grave disease or hyperthyroidism, which means the over-activeness of the thyroid gland. This causes the tissues behind and around the eyes to swell up, which pushes the eyeballs forward.

Among kids, the most common cause for protruding eyes is an infection. However, there are some other causes as well, which aren’t very common. Tumor, bleeding or infection cannot be written off either.

The effects of proptosis aren’t very severe initially but they keep becoming worse gradually. If the condition is prolonged, double vision or impaired vision may also occur.

Here are the detailed causes of bulging eyes:

Grave Disease: Grave disease, also known as hyperthyroidism, is a condition when the thyroid gland secretes excess hormone. When a person is affected with Grave disease, the eye tissues start to swell up, causing the eyeballs to push forward. Thyroid medication may help relieve this condition.

Internal Bleeding: In any incident orbital trauma, the person may start bleeding from the eye socket. As the bleeding turns severe, it fills the eye sockets, resulting in pushing forward of the eyeballs.

Orbital Tumor: Proptosis can even be caused by cancerous, hemangiomas and malignant tumors. If the affected tumor region is behind the eyes and it starts to grow, the eyeballs are pushed forward to a great extent. This condition needs the patient to visit the doctor immediately.

Inflammation: Inflammation diseases are of many types. Some of the inflammation can affect part of human body and cause it to swell rapidly. If the inflammation is caused in and around the eye socket, chances are high that the person may suffer from proptosis.

Orbital Cellulitis: Orbital Cellulitis is a type of inflammation that occurs in the cellular tissues. This inflammation, in most cases, can be caused by a sinus or oral activities. However, something the injury can come from as little as an injury on the eyelids. This cause one of the most deadly one as if the infection spreads to the brain, it may be fatal for the patient.


The first and foremost thing that the patient needs to do is go and consult a doctor as soon as he/she experiences any of the above-mentioned symptoms. The first step taken by the doctor usually includes applying artificial tears. Generally, during bulging eyes, the eyes start to dry. Hence, it is very important to get artificial tears in place first.


  1. National Institutes of Health. Graves’ Disease. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/graves-disease
  2. Mayo Clinic. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperthyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20373659
  3. MedlinePlus. Cellulitis – orbital. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001625.htm
  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Eye Injuries. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/eye-injuries
  5. National Eye Institute. Facts About Dry Eye. https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/dry-eye
  6. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Orbital Cellulitis. https://aapos.org/glossary/orbital-cellulitis

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 29, 2023

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