Itching. Scratching. Burning. If you've ever suffered from dry eyes, you're all too aware of just how uncomfortable or downright painful it can be. Luckily, even if you have chronic dry eyes, the treatment is usually as simple as eye drops or artificial tears.
But did you know dry eyes could also be the sign of a larger problem with your thyroid?
Yes, it's true: Dry eyes are one of the potential symptoms of hyperthyroidism. So what is hyperthyroidism? And how can you tell if you have it? Here's a quick look.
What Is Hyperthyroidism?
Your thyroid produces hormones that regulate the growth and function of many of your body's organs and systems, including your eyes. Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, occurs when your thyroid produces too many of these hormones. Since that affects multiple systems in your body, the symptoms are diverse and can include everything from increased appetite to heart palpitations, or dry eye.
How Does Hyperthyroidism Affect Your Eyes?
Though dry eye caused by hyperthyroidism may feel the same as dry eye caused by dry eye syndrome, it's sometimes quite different.
With dry eye syndrome, your eyes simply don't produce enough tears to keep your eye lubricated, resulting in literally dry eyes. With hyperthyroidism, however, your eyes may produce tears normally, and in fact could begin producing more tears than normal.
Despite this, however, your eyes may still feel dry, scratchy or itchy. That's because the tissues surrounding the eye become inflamed. This constant pressure on the eyes causes swelling, redness, and that dry, gritty feeling. In extreme cases, mostly linked with Grave's disease, the swelling caused by hyperthyroidism can even push your eyes forward, causing them to bulge.
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How Can You Tell If You Have Hyperthyroidism?
When discussing dry eyes with your eye doctor, it's important to fill them in not just on the history of your eyes, but your medical background in general. Other symptoms that may seem completely unrelated to your eyes could in fact be other signs of hyperthyroidism.
If your dry eyes aren't responding to regular treatment, you may want to discuss with your doctor the possibility of an overactive thyroid. Your doctor can do some simple blood tests to determine whether you may be suffering from hyperthyroidism, and if so, can help determine the right treatment for you, and for your eyes.