When the eyes protrude from their usual position, this is sometimes a sign of a serious medical condition that needs treating. The treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the bulging. The two most common medical terms for bulging eyes are exophthalmos and proptosis. Some individuals' eyes naturally protrude more without being caused by an underlying condition.
The general rule of thumb is that the eyes are protruding if the white above the iris can be seen without lifting the eyelid. If only one eye begins bulging suddenly, it is a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment. Some treatments for bulging eyes will focus on the eyes themselves, while others will be geared toward treating whatever underlying condition has caused the eyes to bulge from the skull.
Corticosteroids Or Antibiotics
Depending on the underlying cause of the problem, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroids or antibiotics to help. Some patients might benefit from a combination of the two. Antibiotics are medications that can fight bacterial infections. Bulging eyes are sometimes caused by an infection of the tissues inside or behind the eye. There are eye infections that clear up on their own, but some must be treated with antibiotics. Patients need to complete a full course of antibiotics without skipping any doses, even after they start to feel better.
If patients only complete part of the course, the infection may come back and become antibiotic-resistant. Corticosteroids are prescribed to help treat inflammation associated with eye-bulging. They also reduce the amount of immune system activity in the body. Some are applied topically, while others are taken orally or intravenously. Corticosteroids are an artificial form of cortisol, one of the main hormones produced by the body's adrenal glands.
If the underlying cause of the bulging is infection, a doctor might prescribe eye drops. Eye drops are also sometimes prescribed to help soothe pain and moisturize the eyes. Different eye drops are formulated to treat different conditions. Some are available over-the-counter to treat dry eyes, while others are available through a prescription to treat infections and minor eye injuries. The amount of time patients will need to take the drops will also vary depending on what they're treating. Some patients only need to take eye drops for a few days, while others need more intensive treatment.
Patients should always make sure they're using the drops how they're intended. If individuals don't use the right technique, the drops might not be fully absorbed into the eye, which will keep them from being effective. If it's difficult for a patient to place the eye drops in their eyes themselves, they can ask a family member or friend to help. Those administering the drops should always make sure the dropper and their hands are both clean before doing so.
There are some more serious cases where the best treatment option for bulging eyes may be eye surgery. If the bulging is caused by a cancerous tumor, patients might need surgery or chemotherapy to help. Surgery is rarely considered as the first option for bulging eyes unless the situation is an emergency. It might help in cases where the symptoms are severe or persistent and can't be helped by less invasive treatment methods. Some patients might get cosmetic surgery to improve the appearance of their eyes if the underlying cause of the bulging has been treated, and the condition is not worsening.
Medical treatment doesn't always reverse protruding eyes. If treatment helps the underlying condition but doesn't help the existing bulging, some patients might opt for surgery. Another case where surgery is viable would be if individuals have thyroid disease that's causing severe enough bulging to threaten vision loss. If the bulging eyes are caused by issues with tissues or blood vessels behind the eyes, certain surgeries may be necessary to help repair these.
The most common underlying cause of bulging eyes is hyperthyroidism, a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone, and it's often caused by an autoimmune disorder called Graves' disease. The bulging occurs when tissues around the eyes become inflamed, leading to pressure and bulging. Though anyone can have Graves' disease, the most commonly affected group is women between thirty and sixty years old. Thyroid medications are typically used to treat hyperthyroidism. There are antithyroid medications that keep the thyroid from producing as much thyroid hormone as usual.
Some beta-blockers are sometimes used for treatment. Beta-blockers help block stress hormones from affecting the cardiovascular system. This is very important in cases of hyperthyroidism, since the metabolic effects can lead to a racing or irregular heartbeat. Another less common use for beta-blockers is to treat glaucoma, which is an eye condition that can lead to blindness. If patients have surgery to remove part or all of their thyroid gland, they may need supplemental thyroid medications.
Radioactive iodine is sometimes used in cases of hyperthyroidism, especially if antithyroid medications aren't effective enough. Iodine is important to the health of the thyroid in general. The body uses iodine to create thyroid hormone, and not having enough iodine can lead to an underactive thyroid. Meanwhile, too much iodine can overwork the thyroid gland. Radioactive iodine is a special type of iodine specifically used for managing overactive thyroid.
Individuals take the medication by mouth. It attacks and destroys excess thyroid cells, reducing the amount of thyroid hormone created. Some patients might find radioactive iodine destroys so many thyroid cells that they then have an underactive thyroid. In these cases, they'd need to take supplemental thyroid hormone. Because radioactive iodine can cause permanent damage to the thyroid, it's typically used only after more conservative treatment methods have failed.