Did you know that dry, blurry, and sore eyes can be related to thyroid problems?

Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is when your body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. If left untreated, it can cause several health issues, like obesity, joint pain, infertility, and heart problems.

But that’s not all. Thyroid dysfunction can also cause changes in your vision and eye health.

In this post, we review what hypothyroidism is and how it affects your eyes. We also list some common risk factors for hypothyroidism and the eye symptoms you may face.

Hypothyroidism-related eye problems can be mild or severe. But there are many effective ways to manage them.

Set to learn all about hypothyroidism's effect on the eyes? Let’s start.

Hypothyroidism and Your Eye Health

The thyroid is a tiny gland at the base of your neck. It makes hormones that regulate your metabolism.

Dips in thyroid hormone levels cause hypothyroidism. This slows down your body functions, causes weight gain, and accumulates salt and water in your body.

Hypothyroidism may also be caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition. In this, your immune system attacks your own thyroid gland instead of fighting off infections.

Certain eye proteins are similar to thyroid tissues, so your immune system may target them, too. According to a study by the American Thyroid Association, 6% of patients with Hashimoto’s have thyroid-related eye disease.

The good news? Hypothyroidism eye problems are generally mild, except in severe cases when it leads to thyroid eye disease.

closeup of blue female eyes with hair falling over right eye

Here’s how hypothyroidism may affect your eye health:

  • Dry eye syndrome: Hypothyroidism and dry eyes are linked. Thyroid problems can make your eyes feel dry and gritty. They may also water excessively to counter the dryness. Plus, you may have red and itchy eyes.
  • Eye inflammation: Hypothyroidism may cause inflammation in several parts of your eye, including the fat and muscle behind the eyes.
  • Swollen eyelids: You may notice puffiness around the eyelids due to hypothyroidism. Sometimes, the front of the eye also becomes swollen.
  • Eyelid retraction: Eyelid retraction is a common sign of thyroid dysfunction. In this, your upper and lower eyelids are drawn back from their normal position.
  • Protruding eyes: Thyroid problems can also cause buildup behind your eyeballs, pushing them out of their socket. This can lead to protruding eyes. Rarely, you may not be able to completely close your eyes because of this condition.
  • Blurry vision: If your vision is suddenly deteriorating or turning blurry, your under-active thyroid gland may be to blame.

Common Hypothyroidism Eye Symptoms

Hypothyroidism and eye problems go hand in hand. When your thyroid hormones are affected, you may have dry and gritty eyes, blurry vision, and puffy eyelids.

The common eye symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Dry, gritty, and irritated eyes
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Loss of eyebrow and eyelash hair
  • Eye discomfort and soreness
  • Vision changes
  • Protruding eyeballs, like a stare
  • Puffy eyelids
  • Eyelid abnormalities, like upper eyelid retraction
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Difficulty closing your eyelids
  • Sensitivity to light

Risk Factors for Hypothyroidism Eye Problems

Some people are at higher risk of hypothyroidism eye problems than others. Age, gender, and family history of thyroid are a few factors to consider. Other factors include medical conditions, pregnancy, and smoking habits.

Take a closer look at some common risk factors for thyroid eye disease.

  • Age: Hypothyroidism generally affects middle-aged adults, though it can occur at any age.
  • Family history: If thyroid disease or any other autoimmune disease runs in your family, make sure to opt for regular checkups.
  • Gender: Females are at a higher risk of hypothyroidism than males.
  • Smoking: Smoking may increase the risk of hypothyroidism, according to some studies. It can also make dry eyes worse.
  • Medical conditions: Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and rheumatoid arthritis may also increase your risk of hypothyroidism.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is used to treat certain cancers. But it can damage the cells in the thyroid, making it difficult for the gland to produce hormones.
  • Iodine consumption: Too little iodine in food or medication can also increase hypothyroidism risk.
  • Pregnancy: Recent pregnancy or postpartum may sometimes cause a sharp drop in your thyroid hormone production. But this drop is usually temporary.

pregnant woman in yellow dress holding her belly in profile against field

    Managing Eye Health with Hypothyroidism

    Your eye health can be compromised when your body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. Or when the immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues.

    But there are many ways to manage your eye health with hypothyroidism. Consider opting for a complete eye exam, treating your thyroid dysfunction, taking medication, and seeking natural remedies.

    Here’s how you can effectively manage and treat hypothyroidism eye problems.

    • Test your vision – First and foremost, have your vision tested. If you are struggling with blurry or double vision, your eye doctor can help correct them.
    • Treat your thyroid – If your vision problems are thyroid-related, it’s important to keep your thyroid function stable. Visit your endocrinologist to treat and manage any underlying thyroid problems.
    • Take medication – Medications like wetting drops and ointments can help relieve dry eyes, inflammation, and irritation. You can opt for over the counter or prescription medication.
    • Apply warm compresses – Applying a warm compress can do wonders for your eye health. It will stimulate your tear ducts, relieve dryness, and soothe inflammation. A warm compress will also help with hypothyroidism and puffy eyes.
    • Wear sunglasses – When you have dry eyes and thyroid problems, your eyes can become very sensitive to sunlight. Wearing sunglasses will protect them from the sun’s UV rays and better manage light sensitivity.
    • Quit smoking – Smoking is a risk factor for hypothyroidism. It also affects your vision and makes thyroid treatment less effective. Quit smoking for better eye and overall health.
    • Opt for surgery – If you have retracted eyelids or difficulty closing your eyelids, you may want to opt for eyelid surgery. The surgery will bring back your eyelids to their normal position and reduce overexposure of the cornea.

    The Takeaway

    Your thyroid plays an important role in your body function, including your eyes. A sharp rise or dip in thyroid levels can affect your eye health.

    Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, generally comes with minor eye discomforts. You may complain of dry, gritty, and irritated eyes.

    But in severe cases, it can also cause thyroid eye disease. This can further conditions like double vision, retracting eyelids, puffy eyes, and protruding eyeballs. So, it’s important to manage hypothyroidism eye problems.

    You can start by reaching out to your eye doctor to discuss any vision and eye health problems you may have. You can also visit your endocrinologist to treat any thyroid gland dysfunction.

    What’s more, you can opt for wetting drops and ointments to relieve eye dryness and discomfort. Applying warm compresses can also help deal with puffiness and inflammation.

    And finally, wear sunglasses while stepping out, quit smoking, and eat a healthy diet to keep your eyes and thyroid gland happy and healthy.

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