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Seeing the Way to Treatment for Eye Disease

Thyroid eye disease is a serious, debilitating, and vision-threatening autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks muscles and other tissue behind and around the eyes, which can result in potentially sight-threatening proptosis (eye bulging). Symptoms include light sensitivity, bulging eyes, double vision, and red, watery, and irritated eyes. People living with thyroid eye disease frequently experience long-term reduced quality of life, including an inability to work and carry out many other day-to-day activities

At a recent briefing held by the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR), a Research!America alliance member, patient Christine Gustafson shared a common frustration with thyroid eye disease explaining that beyond the physical pain, it has prevented her sharing in social situations. As an example, she explained that she wouldn’t pass out Halloween candy this year because she didn’t want her eyes to look frightening to the children, clarifying that “it may not seem like a big deal, but when it’s you, it matters.”

There is no approved treatment for thyroid eye disease. Recent research, however, may hold the key to a solution. At the briefing, Raymond Douglas, PhD, Director of the Orbital and Thyroid Eye Disease program at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, presented the work he and his colleagues are leading using a new treatment, rather than an invasive surgery, to help patients.

Research into the biology of the disease has shown that in patients with thyroid eye disease, the immune system falsely attacks certain cells in the eyes, causing symptoms. Dr. Douglas just completed a Phase III clinical trial examining teprotumumab, a drug that protects eye cells from being attacked by the immune system. This trial found a reduction of eye bulging, decrease in double vision, and an overall increase in quality of life. Teprotumumab is on an accelerated FDA approval track. Further testing remains to be done, but this treatment may soon provide a new option to those living with thyroid eye disease.

To learn more about eye research visit the NEI’s page on current research. To become an advocate for vision and eye related research visit NAEVR’s advocacy center.


This blog post was written by Erin Brown, communications intern at Research!America.