Autoimmune conditions cause your immune system to treat healthy cells as infectious cells, leading to inflammation, swelling, and other problems.

Autoimmune thyroid conditions can lead to a wide range of symptoms. For some people, this includes dry eye. Thyroid eye disease can also cause double vision, decreased vision, or elevated eyelids.

Read on to learn about how thyroid issues and dry are connected, available treatments, and more.

Autoimmune thyroid conditions can cause a number of eye symptoms, including dry eye. The eye symptoms caused by autoimmune thyroid conditions are referred to as thyroid eye disease.

A link has been noted between thyroid antibodies and eye conditions, but the exact reasons for this link still needs further study. What is clear is that autoimmune conditions cause your immune system to attack or overreact to healthy cells.

For people with autoimmune thyroid conditions, this sometimes includes the healthy cells around the eyes. Immune cells will react abnormally to the tissue and muscle around the eyes, causing dry eye.

They can also cause inflammation of your lacrimal glands, where tears are made, further drying out your eyes. And because thyroid eye disease can cause your eyes to bulge, this may also exacerbate dry eyes.

Can levothyroxine cause dry eye?

Levothyroxine is a medication that’s often prescribed to treat hypothyroidism. Common side effects include:

  • trouble sleeping
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea
  • rapid heart rate
  • headache

Some people also report eye pain, but this is rare.

Dry eye isn’t a reported side effect of levothyroxine. However, if you notice dry eye while taking levothyroxine, it’s a good idea to mention it to your doctor or a healthcare professional.

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Graves’ disease

Graves’ disease is the thyroid disorder that’s most commonly linked to dry eye. If you have dry eyes and Graves’ disease, it might be referred to as Graves’ eye disease or Graves’ ophthalmopathy.

Grave’s disease is a type of hyperthyroidism, or overproduction of thyroid hormones. It can cause a variety of symptoms such as:

  • weight loss
  • anxiety
  • tremors
  • heart palpitations
  • fatigue.

In addition to dry eye, other eye-related symptoms include:

  • redness
  • irritation
  • swelling of eyelids or conjunctiva (thin membrane covering the front surface of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids)
  • bulging of eyeballs
  • pain
  • double vision
  • blurry vision or even loss of vision if the optic nerve is affected

Hashimoto’s disease

Some people who have Hashimoto’s disease also experience dry eye. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition that at first causes hyperthyroidism.

Over time, Hashimoto’s blocks your thyroid and leads to underproduction of thyroid hormones, called hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s causes symptoms such as fatigue and weight gain.

In addition to dry eye, other eye-related symptoms include:

  • blurry vision
  • eye swelling
  • eyelid retraction
  • loss of eyebrows
  • loss of eyelashes

Treating your thyroid disorder won’t be enough to manage your dry eye in most cases. You’ll also need to take steps to keep your eyes moisturized.

Generally, dry eye caused by thyroid conditions will last for between 6 months and 2 years. However, you can take steps to manage it during this time. Treatment options include:

  • Over-the-counter eye drops. You can use products such as artificial tears or lubricating eye drops to help manage your dry eye. However, it’s best to avoid products marked “red eye relief” since those can make dry eye worse.
  • Prescription steroid eye drops. A medical professional, such as an ophthalmologist, can prescribe stronger steroid eye drops to help keep your eyes moist. These drops can also reduce any swelling or irritation. However, steroid eye drops are usually only safe to use for a short period of time.
  • Prescription oral steroids. Oral steroid medications can sometimes help relieve dry eye and other eye health symptoms. They may be prescribed by the endocrinologist treating your thyroid condition.

A medical professional will likely also recommend at-home changes. Making these changes will reduce dryness and irritation in your eyes. These changes might include:

  • quitting smoking, if you smoke
  • wearing sunglasses and visors to protect your eyes
  • avoiding overly hot and dry places
  • resting your eyes often
  • using a cool compresses when your eyes feel dry and tired
  • using a humidifier in your bedroom

Resources for coping with dry eye

You can take charge of managing the eye problems linked to thyroid disorders. Check out the articles below, which discuss different ways of managing your eye and thyroid health:

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Autoimmune thyroid conditions can sometimes cause dry eye and other eye symptoms. It can occur when thyroid antibodies cause the immune system to attack tissues and muscles around the eyes.

This is most commonly seen in people with Grave’s disease, but people with Hashimoto’s can experience dry eye as well.

Thyroid condition–linked dry eye can be treated with eye drops or oral medications. A medical professional can help you manage your dry eye along with your thyroid condition.