What is Exophthalmos?

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  • Written By: Garry Crystal
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2020
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Exophthalmos is a medical condition that is usually linked with some other type of illness. Exopthalmos is characterized by bulging or protruding eyeballs. In most cases, both eyeballs are affected, but in some circumstances, only one eyeball is affected. If only one eyeball is affected, the condition is called proptosis.

Exophthalmos is most commonly associated with thyroid problems. The thyroid is a gland that controls the body's metabolism. It is located in the neck and controls the rate at which the body uses its energy.

Exophthalmos is also a common symptom of Grave's disease. Grave's disease is an auto-immune disease in which certain bodily tissues are attacked by the immune system. As a result, the thyroid gland becomes overactive.

Exophthalmos occurs when tissue builds up in the eyeball socket. This causes the eyeball to be pushed forward and protrude to the front of the socket. The eyelids are then forced apart, exposing more of the eye's white area. Patients suffering from this condition appear to be constantly staring.

Other symptoms of exophthalmos include double vision and crossed eyes. The eye area can also become irritated, itchy and dry. The eye muscles may also become impaired.


Exophthalmos is typically diagnosed from the bulging eyes. An eye specialist is sometimes consulted for verification. Blood tests are used to determine whether the thyroid gland has become impaired. A computer may be used to scan the eye socket area in order to detect irregularities such as tumors.

Treatment for exophthalmos depends on the cause of the condition. If the condition is caused by a thyroid problem, then exophthalmos should disappear once the thyroid treatment has begun. Exophthalmos is a progressive condition, and in some cases, the protrusions may be permanent.

In some cases, surgery may be performed to alleviate the condition. Bone from the bottom of the eye sockets is removed in order to allow additional tissue to fill the socket. Mesh implants can also be used to strengthen the eyelids. Other forms of treatment include radiation and steroids.

Some sufferers of exophthalmos are unable to close their eyes when sleeping. Damage to the cornea can result, as it begins to dry out. Damage to vision may occur as a result of infections and eye ulcers. Another complication of exophthalmos may be conjunctivitis. A doctor will be able to advise the best treatment if this occurs.


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