Look out, bulging eyes may not always be a sign of beauty  

Big bulging eyes often receive more attention as they are perceived to be more beautiful.

Published: 16th January 2020 06:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th January 2020 06:34 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: Big bulging eyes often receive more attention as they are perceived to be more beautiful. However, bulging eyes or eyes that project out of their normal position might not be a sign of beauty but of some serious medical condition. Some people are born with eyes that bulge out more than usual, while in some people, bulging eyes grow due to an underlying medical condition.

One way to observe the bulging is that in most normal cases, the white part of the eye must not be seen between upper lid and iris. But if the white area is visible between the iris and the upper eyelid, then it could be a sign of abnormal bulging.

Bulging eyes are also referred to as exophthalmos or proptosis. The bulging could either be bilateral or unilateral. If one of the eyes is suddenly observed bulging, it should immediately be given medical attention. Also known as Thyroid eye disease, Graves’ Eye disease can also lead to bulging eyes. This is because Graves’ disease occurs when the body produces too much thyroid hormone and the immune system attacks the tissue around the eyes which makes the eyes protrude forward. 

Some other symptoms include:
 A gritty, dry sensation in the eyes
 Eye pain or pressure
 Puffy eyelids
 Inflaming or reddening of the eyes
 Sensitivity to light
 Vision loss or double vision
 Not being able to move both eyes in sync

Less commonly, Graves’ eye disease can occur in people with an underactive thyroid gland as well and rarely in people with normal thyroid levels. It is the most common cause of bulging eyes. Some other possible causes are:
 Certain types of cancer like Neuroblastoma (a type of cancer that can affect your sympathetic nervous system), leukaemia (a type of cancer that can affect your white blood cells), rhabdomyosarcoma (a type of cancer that can develop in your soft tissues) or metastatic tumours from cancer elsewhere in the body. A tumour (cancerous or non-cancerous) can develop behind the eye and push the eye forward
 Lymphoma, often non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
 Hemangioma, an abnormal collection of blood vessels
 An injury leading to bleeding in the eye socket or swelling in the eye socket and the eye may protrude due to collection of blood behind it
 Sarcoidosis and other connective tissue diseases
 Certain infections can also attack the eye and inflame the eye socket like orbital cellulitis, an inflammation that can affect the tissues around your eye

If any unusual bulging is observed in either one or both of the eyes, you must ensure to get it checked with an Oculoplastic Surgeon. To diagnose the problem and the extent of it, the Oculoplastic Surgeon is likely to ask the patient to get one or more of the following tests done post a physical examination of the patient’s bulging eye/eyes:
 Vision test
 Dilated eye exam
 Slit-lamp exam
 Imaging tests like CT or MRI scans
 Blood tests


The treatment plan for bulging eyes depends on the underlying cause that has led to the bulging of the eyes. Based on the diagnosis, the doctor is likely to prescribe one or more of the following:

  Eye drops
  Corticosteroids to ease inflammation
  Eye surgery
  Surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation to treat cancerous tumours

However, in the case of Graves’ disease or another thyroid condition, the following treatment is likely to be recommended by endocrinologist:

  Medications like beta-blockers or anti-thyroid medications
  Radioactive iodine
  Surgery to remove the thyroid gland
  Replacing thyroid hormone if the thyroid gland has been destroyed

The author is  consultant-oculoplasty, Sankara Eye Hospital

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