Thyroid Eye Disease Triggers and Flares

Several factors can cause a Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) flare. Identifying your TED triggers and understanding their impact will help you and your doctor assess your specific needs.

Use the TED Triggers and Flares Tool below to learn about risk factors and potential triggers that can cause your TED to flare.

Watch how TED Works

Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) and Graves' disease are both autoimmune disorders that can often get confused. While TED often develops in people who have Graves' disease, they are different conditions. That's why they require different doctors and different treatments. Learn more about the differences and how TED works in the video below.

Read transcript

Announcer: Thyroid Eye Disease (or TED) is a rare disease affecting the eyes. TED is also referred to as Graves’ Eye Disease. TED can develop in patients with Graves’ disease. Although they are both autoimmune conditions, TED and Graves’ disease are different conditions as they affect different parts of the body. 

In Graves’ disease, the body mistakenly attacks the thyroid glands, resulting in an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism. In TED, the immune system attacks the muscles and fat tissues behind the eyes, causing redness and swelling known as inflammation. This process results in both the muscles and fat tissues behind the eyes expanding, as well as a buildup of fluid. 

Treatments for Graves’ disease are targeted to help the thyroid but won’t help TED. Different medications and specialists are required to manage each condition. Some of the early symptoms of TED are eye pain, redness, dry or gritty eyes, or overly watery eyes, and blurry vision. These symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions, such as allergies. 

TED is a progressive disease, which means it can get worse over time. Bulging eyes and eyelid swelling may occur as TED progresses. Eye swelling can make it hard to move the eyes. All these effects can lead to vision impairment, including double vision. In some cases, it is possible for swelling of fat and muscle tissue to push against the optic nerve, which puts vision at risk. 

While it is not entirely known why some people develop TED and others do not, doctors have found certain factors that put people at greater risk. This includes having a thyroid condition such as Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism, and Hashimoto’s disease, or hypothyroidism. The risk of developing TED may also be increased if patients have received radioactive iodine as treatment for Graves’ disease. In general, women are more likely to suffer from TED. Smoking and middle age further increase the risk of developing the condition. 

As a rare and complicated disease, TED treatment requires a specialist who is familiar with treating it. Doctors who are most familiar with TED are usually specialized ophthalmologists, such as oculoplastic surgeons, neuro-ophthalmologists, and strabismus surgeons. Remember, TED can get worse over time. Getting treatment as early as possible can help prevent further eye damage. 

Find a TED Eye Specialist at