Living with thyroid eye disease (TED) can be challenging. You can take strides to live well with TED by using a combination of self-care practices and lifestyle adjustments. You can also seek professional guidance from a doctor or therapist.
The following tips offer coping strategies for the physical symptoms of TED, emotional well-being, practical lifestyle adjustments, and more.
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Understanding Thyroid Eye Disease
Thyroid eye disease is a rare condition that causes swelling and inflammation of the eye. According to an NCBI study, it affects between 150 to 250 people in 100,000. It is more common in people with Graves’ disease. In fact, one in three people suffering from Graves’ disease can have TED. Hence, it is also called Graves’ Ophthalmopathy or Graves’ Orbitopathy.
TED occurs when your thyroid gland affects other parts of your body, including your eyes. During this time, you may experience various symptoms like swelling around your eyes or bulging eyes. This is called the active phase of the disease, which typically lasts for 6 months to 2 years. After the active phase, the progression of the condition stops.
- Swelling around the eyes (periorbital edema)
- Bulging eyes
- Double vision
- Redness of the whites of your eyes (conjunctival hyperemia)
- Pain or discomfort in one or both eyes
If you have any of these symptoms, see an ophthalmologist right away. They’ll be able to diagnose and treat thyroid eye disease quickly. This can get you back to enjoying life without pain or discomfort in between those blissful naps on the couch.
Coping Strategies for Physical Symptoms
Treating the physical symptoms of thyroid eye disease is an important part of living with this condition. Many patients find that their vision improves when they manage their thyroid-related symptoms, such as dryness or eye discomfort. Here are some tips:
Eye Discomfort and Dryness: Tips for Relief
- Artificial tears: Use preservative-free artificial tears to relieve dryness and discomfort. Apply them regularly throughout the day.
- Warm compresses: Apply warm compresses to the eyes to alleviate dryness and promote tear production.
- Hydration: Stay well-hydrated to maintain overall eye health. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Managing Bulging Eyes: Practical Techniques and Exercises
- Eye patch at night: Use an eye patch at night to shield your eyes from irritation and reduce exposure to light, which can exacerbate symptoms.
- Elevate your head: Elevate the head of your bed to reduce fluid retention around the eyes and minimize the appearance of bulging.
Dealing with Double Vision: Adaptive Strategies
- Prism lenses: Consult with an eye care professional to determine if prism lenses can be prescribed to help correct double vision.
- Eye patch for monocular vision: If double vision occurs in one eye, wearing an eye patch over the affected eye may help improve vision.
- Reduce eye Strain: Avoid activities that strain the eyes, such as reading for extended periods. Take regular breaks to rest your eyes.
You can also take medication for managing TED symptoms. One of the most common medications doctors recommend is Tepezza. Tepezza or Teprotumumab is currently the only drug approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for treating TED. Appropriate administration of the drug has shown improvements in proptosis and diplopia.
A study from The New England Journal of Medicine shows that it is far more effective than placebo treatment. The study assigned 41 TED patients to the Tepezza group and 42 to the placebo group. It was concluded that 34 patients showed positive proptosis response in the Tepezza group. On the other hand, only 4 patients showed a proptosis response in the placebo group.
Although effective in treating TED, Tepezza might still not be safe for you. According to TorHoerman Law, many studies have recently shown an association between Tepezza and hearing loss. Even the FDA found several side effects of Tepezza, including infusion reactions, muscle spasms, worsening of inflammatory bowel disease, etc.
However, a common and major side effect seen among patients using Tepezza is hearing loss or tinnitus. Hence, many victims are filing a Tepezza lawsuit against the manufacturers. Through the Tepezza lawsuit, victims allege that the manufacturer Horizon Therapeutics failed to warn them about the potential damages.
TED can significantly impact your emotional well-being. A study from the ScienceDirect Journal shows that around 36% of people suffering from the condition showed signs of mental health issues. 26% of the patients suffered from anxiety, whereas 17% suffered from depression.
Here are some tips to keep your emotional well-being intact when suffering from thyroid eye disease:
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the present moment and accepting it as it is, without judgment. It can be practiced through meditation, yoga, or other forms of exercise.
- Yoga: This ancient practice uses physical postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama) to promote mental calmness, healing, and well-being. Yoga also promotes a healthy body image by encouraging acceptance of our bodies as they are right now.
- Psychotherapy/counseling: Talking about your feelings with someone who will listen attentively is one way of helping yourself feel better. Psychotherapy involves regular sessions with a therapist who helps you work through these issues together over time. This ensures that they don’t hold back your ability to live life fully again.
Practical Lifestyle Adjustments
As a person living with thyroid eye disease, you will likely experience different symptoms at different times. Some of these symptoms can be managed by making practical lifestyle adjustments.
- Avoid activities that cause pain and discomfort. For example, avoid straining or lifting heavy items if you have exophthalmos (bulging eyes). This is because it will increase pressure on your eyes and make them bulge out even more than usual.
- Avoid wearing heavy eye makeup. It may irritate the eyes further if they are already inflamed due to thyroid eye disease.
- Avoid using creams or lotions around the eyes. This is especially true if they contain fragrances or other ingredients that could potentially irritate sensitive tissues in this area. Likewise, avoid mascara since it has been known to irritate some people who wear contact lenses regularly. However, this may vary depending on how sensitive yours truly is.
The following self-care practices can be beneficial in managing TED symptoms:
- Establishing a daily self-care routine. It’s important to establish a daily routine that includes activities that you enjoy and make you feel good about yourself. For example, suppose you find that cooking makes you happy or helps relieve stress. In that case, make it a part of your weekly schedule by planning dinner parties with friends or family members.
- Using relaxation techniques such as massage therapy and yoga as part of managing TED symptoms. These activities promote body awareness which is essential when living with TED. It helps you recognize changes in your body before they become serious issues.
- Follow medical treatment. Work closely with your healthcare team, including endocrinologists and ophthalmologists, to manage your thyroid condition and address specific symptoms of TED. This may include medications, radiation therapy, or in severe cases, surgery.
Seeking Professional Guidance
If you have been diagnosed with thyroid eye disease, it is important to find a doctor who specializes in the condition. You may also want to consult with an eye doctor who can help you manage your symptoms.
In addition, seeing a therapist who has experience working with people who have TED can be helpful for emotional support. Consulting with your doctor, seeking mental health support, and following a medical treatment plan can boost your confidence in managing TED.
Finding a support group is another option for those struggling with this disease. These groups often meet regularly and provide members with opportunities for mutual understanding and encouragement during tough times.
Finding a balance between living with thyroid eye disease and taking care of yourself can be a challenge. But there are many things you can do to help yourself feel better, including seeking professional guidance and using coping techniques. If your symptoms get worse or don’t improve after trying these tips, talk with your doctor about different treatment options.