Hold control (command on a Mac) and press the + key as many times as necessary to increase the font size.
Hold control (command on a Mac) and press the - key to reduce the font size. - hide

Glaucoma and Graves' Disease



James C. Orcutt, M.D., Ph.D.

Elevated eye pressure is extremely common in patients with Graves’ eye disease. However, this does not necessarily mean that glaucoma is also common in Graves’ disease.

Glaucoma is elevation of pressure within the eye which eventually leads to diminution of side vision and damage to the sight nerve which can be seen by the ophthalmologist when he looks in the eye. Elevation of eye pressure alone is therefore not sufficient to make a diagnosis of glaucoma.

On the other hand, eye pressure is commonly elevated in patients with Graves’ disease because of the swelling to the eye muscles and tissues behind the eye. When a patient with Graves’ disease moves their eyes, the stiff muscles behind the eye squeeze against the eye, causing the eye pressure to increase. Fortunately, when most patients with Graves disease look downward, the eye pressure is totally normal. Therefore, most patients with Graves’ disease have only an eye movement elevation of their eye pressure. If the eye is held in this position in which the pressure is elevated, the pressure will rapidly return to a normal level. In addition, most patients with these stiff eye muscles tend to hold their eyes in downward position with their chin slightly forward. So the pressure increase of Graves’ disease is temporary and does not lead to either side vision loss or to damage to the sight nerve.

While it is certainly true that there must be a rare patient who has true glaucoma and Graves’ disease, this is actually very uncommon. The elevated eye pressure can lead to a misdiagnosis of glaucoma in many patients with Graves’ disease. A worrisome problem which this creates is that a misdiagnosis of glaucoma leads to inappropriate treatment if a patient should be losing vision from their Graves’ disease and not glaucoma. Periodic visits to your ophthalmologist should be able to guard against a misdiagnosis.

Used with permission of the author:
James C. Orcutt, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Washington (1991)

Download as a PDF.

Recent News

Recent Forum Posts

  • American Thyroid Association Patient Event This Saturday (Oct. 21) in Victoria, BC!

    Oct. 16, 2017, 12:32 p.m.

    Hi all - If you are in the Victoria, BC area, the American Thyroid Association will be hosting a patient...

  • Lid Retraction Surgery

    Oct. 15, 2017, 10:33 a.m.

    Wow. That helps a lot. Let me take in what you said. I may be back to clarify something. I also welcome...

  • Lid Retraction Surgery

    Oct. 14, 2017, 5:23 p.m.

    I have had one lid done twice and the other three times. Lids are extremely delicate and the muscles are...

  • Lid Retraction Surgery

    Oct. 14, 2017, 3:58 p.m.

    Hi. This site was very helpful when I had my thyroid out about a year ago. I am now back with a question. My...

  • Question regarding Endo visits since TT

    Oct. 11, 2017, 7:45 p.m.

    LOL! I'm quite sure my endo will never forget that I've had a TT. My case was quite memorable due to the size...

  • Question regarding Endo visits since TT

    Oct. 8, 2017, 1:58 p.m.

    My endo was a bit clueless sometimes. Once she was feeling my neck and admitted she forgot I had had a TT! I...

  • Question regarding Endo visits since TT

    Oct. 8, 2017, 12:21 p.m.

    Sue's last question got me thinking of a question of my own. For any of you who have had a...

  • Stored thyroid tissue after TT?

    Oct. 6, 2017, 9:54 p.m.

    Ellen_B Hi all, I agree it is a difficult task– finding out the how's and why's one levels are just...

  • Stored thyroid tissue after TT?

    Oct. 6, 2017, 12:06 p.m.

    Hi all, I agree it is a difficult task– finding out the how's and why's one levels are just all over...

  • Stored thyroid tissue after TT?

    Oct. 5, 2017, 9:53 a.m.

    Wow, that's really interesting about it “possibly growing back”… didn't know that. But it's...

  • Stored thyroid tissue after TT?

    Oct. 5, 2017, 2:04 a.m.

    The last time I saw my endo, she checked my neck even though I've had a thyroidectomy. She told me she will...

  • Joint/Muscle Pain - How common?

    Sept. 30, 2017, 7:51 p.m.

    Just posting here, in case any subscribers might like to read my post under “Share Your Success...

  • On ATD two years-plus?

    Sept. 30, 2017, 7:44 p.m.

    Hi Everyone, Just checking back in on this thread, to let you know that my ATD journey has taken me to a...

  • Share your Success Story!

    Sept. 30, 2017, 7:38 p.m.

    Hello Everyone, It hasn't been easy, and my journey surely hasn't been short, but I too have wrestled this...

  • Stored thyroid tissue after TT?

    Sept. 30, 2017, 10:59 a.m.

    Requirements do change, things like weight gain/loss, estrogen replacement, steroids, maybe even gut bacteria...

Questions? Problems? Please contact us at info@ngdf.org or 877-643-3123.

GDATF on Facebook

Support the GDATF and become a member today!

© 2017 Graves' Disease & Thyroid Foundation