About Graves' Disease
Thyroid eye disease (or Graves' disease) is a condition where the person's own immune system over-reacts to the thyroid hormone.
This disease is defined by swelling that occurs behind the eyes, which causes a buildup of tissue and retraction of the eyelids. In the most severe cases, pressure from the tissue compresses the optic nerve and threatens a person’s vision. That’s when a surgical procedure will become necessary.
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During surgery, the upper retractor muscles are loosened, which releases the scar tissue and allows the upper eyelids to be moved downward into a more natural position. The exact same technique is carried out on the lower eyelids. In some instances, internal tissue spacer grafts may be used to raise the vertical position of the lower eyelid closer to the level of the iris. The incisions are then closed with absorbable sutures.
In cases of Thyroid Eye Disease where the eyes begin to painfully bulge forward, orbital decompression is performed. With this technique, bone windows are created in the orbital area to allow the eyes to move back to a more normal position that is more comfortable for the patient, and healthier for the ocular tissues.
During recovery, most patients experience swelling that will steadily subside over 2 to 4 weeks. Although minimal discomfort is expected during the first few days, it can be alleviated by prescribed medication. Individuals can usually return to work about 1 week after the sutures are removed.