When you look at a pair of healthy eyes, you shouldn’t be able to see the whites of the eye above or below the iris. If some white is always visible between the iris and eyelid, the eyes are considered to be protruding out of their normal position.
The medical term for this condition is exophthalmos, or proptosis, and is thought to affect about 1 in 4,000 individuals worldwide.
Bulging eyes aren’t a standalone condition, but rather a symptom of another health problem. Several medical conditions can cause one’s eye or eyes to bulge, and the treatment plan depends on the underlying condition.
It’s important to note that a sudden bulging of one eye is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
Common Causes of Bulging Eyes
The most common cause of exophthalmos is thyroid disorders, especially Grave’s disease (hyperthyroidism). Thyroid eye disease is a condition that causes the muscles, eyelids and tear glands to swell, resulting in a bulging appearance.
Symptoms of thyroid eye disease can include:
- Painful eyes
- Dry eyes
- Irritated eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Watery eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Difficulty with eye movements
- Pressure around or behind the eyes
Thyroid-related exophthalmos usually takes up to several months or years to manifest.
Other reasons for bulging eyes include:
- Bleeding behind the eyeball due to injury
- Infection of the eye’s tissues
- Connective tissue disease
What Should You Do If You Notice Your Eyes Protruding?
Sudden bulging should be addressed by a medical professional without delay.
Otherwise, schedule an appointment with your physician as well as your optometrist. Be prepared to answer questions about your symptoms, general health and family history to receive an accurate assessment and diagnosis.
How We Can Help
Left untreated, exophthalmos can lead to corneal dryness, inflammation of the eye tissue and dry eye syndrome. The eyes may not be able to close completely during a blink, making them prone to insufficient lubrication and hydration.
We can treat your dry eyes and relieve some of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with bulging eyes. Treatment will be tailor-made to meet the needs of your eyes and overall health status.
To schedule a consultation, call South Coast Optometry in Costa Mesa today!
Our practice serves patients from Costa Mesa, Orange County, Newport Beach, and Irvine, California and surrounding communities.
- A: Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a condition characterized by chronic eye dryness that can be caused by genetic, environmental and other factors. Very often, it is caused by malfunctioning glands that secrete nourishing oils into the tear film. Symptoms of DES can include redness, irritation, watery eyes, blurred vision, light sensitivity, stringy eye mucus and eye pain.
- A: Left untreated, dry eye syndrome can cause corneal ulcers, which may lead to permanent vision loss. If your eyes are giving you any trouble, speak to a dry eye eye doctor, who can diagnose the problem and help you achieve the relief you seek.