Eye symptoms may be a thyroid warning

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Eye problems are common; dry, red, irritated or weepy eyes are symptoms that many of our patients experience. Sometimes the problem lies solely with the eyes, but other times it’s actually an indicator of a health condition elsewhere in the body.

Did you know that some thyroid conditions can cause problems with your eyes? Sometimes that is the first warning sign of a thyroid condition. Possible thyroid related symptoms may include dry eyes, watery eyes, red eyes, bulging eyes, double vision, difficulty closing the eyes, and problems with vision. It’s also possible to have alternating symptoms, where sometimes your eyes are dry and other times they are watery.

The cause of the eye symptoms is autoimmune disease and it most often occurs alongside the autoimmune thyroid diseases Graves’ disease and postpartum thyroiditis. Both of those conditions can cause an over active thyroid gland.

Thyroid eye disease can affect many different parts of the eye and surrounding tissues. Inflamed lacrimal glands can cause wet eyes or dry eyes. The abnormal immune reaction can cause swelling in the tissues of the eyelids and orbit which can make your eyelids look puffy or like you have baggy eyelids. This can also create a sensation of pressure around your eyes. The muscles in your eyelids can tighten and pull the upper lid up and the lower lid down. This may create a startled look with too much of the whites of your eyes showing. The muscles which control movement of your eyes may be increased in size by the swelling, which may create problems with double vision and focusing.

Eye disease occurs in approximately 1 in 20 people with an overactive thyroid gland. It can be difficult to treat because normalizing the thyroid hormones does not correct the eye problem. In order to overcome the eye condition we must help the immune system in the same way we address all autoimmune conditions. Here are my suggestions on how to do that:

  • Overcoming autoimmune disease requires healing a leaky gut. When the gut becomes excessively permeable (leaky), microbes and wastes in the gut are allowed to enter the bloodstream. This places an enormous burden on the immune system and liver. It causes the liver to manufacture large amounts of inflammatory chemicals. If you want to heal a leaky gut, you need to stop eating foods that irritate and inflame the gut; these include grains, (particularly gluten containing ones), dairy products, legumes, and sugar. Some people need to restrict other foods as well, such as eggs and nightshade vegetables.
  • The Dr Cabot 15 Day Cleanse helps to reduce levels of inflammation in the body by supporting improved liver, gut and immune health. It comes with a gluten and dairy free eating plan that is easy to follow and delicious.
  • Selenium helps to maintain healthy thyroid hormone levels.
  • If you have a leaky gut, there is a high chance you have an overgrowth of the wrong microbes in your gut. Bad bacteria, yeast and other organisms can inflame your gut lining and steal your nutrients from you, leaving you malnourished, even if you follow a healthy diet. Glutamine is wonderful for healing a leaky gut; it is the preferred fuel source for intestinal cells, therefore helps to heal and seal the gut lining. Glutamine can be found in Ultimate Gut Health powder.
  • Stress is a major driver and aggravating factor in almost all cases of autoimmune disease. The stress might be due to work, finances or relationships, but sometimes the stress is purely due to the symptoms of the autoimmune disease, and the resulting fatigue and fear. Magnesium is a wonderfully calming mineral that almost no one gets enough of. It relaxes your mind and muscles and helps to improve sleep quality.
  • Most people with thyroid problems or autoimmune conditions don’t have optimum levels of vitamin D in their body. I recommend you ask your doctor for a blood test. It’s best to aim for a blood level above 100nmol/L.

For more in depth information on overcoming thyroid conditions see the book Your Thyroid Problems Solved.

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