What's The Difference Between Thyroid Eye Disease And Graves' Disease?

Although both are caused by problems in the thyroid and have many similar symptoms, thyroid eye disease (TED) and Graves' disease are quite different. According to WebMD, thyroid eye disease is an autoimmune disorder that develops when the body creates antibodies that attack and trigger inflammation. This results in redness in the muscles surrounding the eyes. Similarly, Graves' disease is also an autoimmune condition. However, per the American Thyroid Association (ATA), it provokes the antibodies to react against the thyroid-producing cells, leading to an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). In the process, Graves' disease also attacks the eye cell receptors, which leads to bulging eyes.

Statistics from the National Organization of Rare Diseases (NORD) show that thyroid eye disease affects about 2.9 men and 16 women per 100,000 in the American population. On the other hand, numbers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) show that Graves' disease affects one in every 100 people in the U.S.

How are Graves' disease and thyroid eye disease different?

The main difference between Graves' disease and TED lies in what parts of the body they affect. Graves' disease primarily impacts thyroid gland function, causing it to be hyperactive, whereas TED is typically an eye disease that may or may not be caused by thyroid imbalance (via British Thyroid Foundation). At times, the latter may even be triggered by certain thyroid medications.

A few people are also under the impression that TED is actually a symptom of Graves' disease. However, it's important to remember that both Graves' disease and TED can occur in people who do not have an overactive or underactive thyroid, explains Endocrine Web. In fact, people who have a normal thyroid may also develop symptoms of these diseases.

Additionally, it's not necessary for you to have signs of TED if you have Graves' disease. OphthalmologyAdvisor reports that you might notice symptoms of thyroid eye disease even if you haven't been diagnosed with Graves' disease because TED isn't always associated with thyroid gland imbalance.