Question:

What is the medical term for bulging eyes?

Answer:

Though prominent eyes may simply be a family trait, eyes that appear to bulge may be evidence of Graves' disease. Abnormal levels of thyroid hormone cause tissues surrounding the eye to swell, making it appear that the eye is bulging.

More Info:

Graves' disease (or Basedow-Graves disease) is an autoimmune disease. It most commonly affects the thyroid, frequently causing it to enlarge to twice its size or more (goiter), become overactive, with related hyperthyroid symptoms such as increased heartbeat, muscle weakness, disturbed sleep, and irritability. It can also affect the eyes, causing bulging eyes (exophthalmos). It affects other systems of the body, including the skin, heart, circulation and nervous system.

It affects up to 2% of the female population, sometimes appears after childbirth, and has a female:male incidence of 5:1 to 10:1.]citation needed[ Hereditary factors are the major risk factor for the development of Graves disease, with "79% of the liability to the development of GD ... attributable to genetic factors". Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke is associated with the eye manifestations but not the thyroid manifestations.

Medicine

Autoimmune diseases arise from an abnormal immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body (autoimmunity). This may be restricted to certain organs (e.g. in autoimmune thyroiditis) or involve a particular tissue in different places (e.g. Goodpasture's disease which may affect the basement membrane in both the lung and the kidney). The treatment of autoimmune diseases is typically with immunosuppression—medication that decreases the immune response. A large number of autoimmune diseases are recognised.

For a disease to be regarded as an autoimmune disease it needs to answer to Witebsky's postulates (first formulated by Ernst Witebsky and colleagues in 1957 and modified in 1994):

Graves' disease (or Basedow-Graves disease) is an autoimmune disease. It most commonly affects the thyroid, frequently causing it to enlarge to twice its size or more (goiter), become overactive, with related hyperthyroid symptoms such as increased heartbeat, muscle weakness, disturbed sleep, and irritability. It can also affect the eyes, causing bulging eyes (exophthalmos). It affects other systems of the body, including the skin, heart, circulation and nervous system.

It affects up to 2% of the female population, sometimes appears after childbirth, and has a female:male incidence of 5:1 to 10:1.]citation needed[ Hereditary factors are the major risk factor for the development of Graves disease, with "79% of the liability to the development of GD ... attributable to genetic factors". Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke is associated with the eye manifestations but not the thyroid manifestations.

Thyroid

Exophthalmos, also called proptosis, is a bulging of the eye anteriorly out of the orbit. Exophthalmos can be either bilateral (as is often seen in Graves' disease) or unilateral (as is often seen in an orbital tumor). Complete or partial dislocation from the orbit is also possible from trauma or swelling of surrounding tissue resulting from trauma.

In the case of Graves' disease, the displacement of the eye is due to abnormal connective tissue deposition in the orbit and extraocular muscles which can be visualized by CT or MRI.

Hyperthyroidism

Graves' ophthalmopathy (also known as thyroid eye disease (TED), dysthyroid/thyroid-associated orbitopathy (TAO), Graves' orbitopathy) is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder affecting the orbit around the eye, characterized by upper eyelid retraction, swelling (edema), redness (erythema), conjunctivitis, and bulging eyes (proptosis).

It is part of a systemic process with variable expression in the eyes, thyroid, and skin, caused by autoantibodies that bind to tissues in those organs, and, in general, occurs with hyperthyroidism. The most common form of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease. About 10% of cases do not have Graves' disease, but do have autoantibodies.

Anatomy

A thyroid disease is a medical condition impairing the function of the thyroid.

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