Bulging Eyes or Proptosis
Bulging eyes may be inherited, but most cases they are related to a problem with the thyroid. Read more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of bulging eyes.
Proptosis, or exophthalmos, is the bulging out of one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) of the eyes. While some people naturally have eyes that seem to bulge due to variations in our anatomy, others can develop the condition. If a person suddenly develops proptosis, especially in just one eye, it is considered a very serious problem. Sudden onsets of proptosis should always be evaluated by an eye doctor immediately.
If the bulging is mild, a doctor can take measurements with a ruler or an exophthalmometer. As long as measurements are within a certain range, more testing isn’t necessary. However, if measurements are out of the normal range other tests will be necessary and could include an MRI, blood work, ultrasound or even a biopsy.
Proptosis can be a very serious situation for some people. The bulging orbit may increase the pressure behind and inside the eye called intraocular pressure. As the intraocular pressure increases, so do risks for other eye diseases such as glaucoma.
Alternate Names for Bulging Eyes
There are many different names experts use when referring to bulging eyes, such as:
- Protruding Eyes
- Bulging Eyes
It’s important to know the different names and terms experts use so you may continue to do your own research at home if wanted. Also, it helps you while you’re visiting your doctor, allowing you to keep up in conversation.
Bulging Eyes Symptoms
Normally, there should be no visible white between the top of the iris (the colored part of the eye) and the upper eyelid. Seeing white in this area is usually a sign that there is abnormal eye bulging occurring. There are many symptoms one will experience while dealing with bulging eyes. These symptoms and other problems include:
- Difficulty closing eyes fully while sleeping or blinking
- Drying of the cornea
- Scarring which can lead to permanent vision loss
- Difficulty with eye movement
- Increase in white part of eye showing
Causes of Bulging Eyes
For bulging eyes, there is almost always an underlying cause. If you were born with prominent eyes, or have it in your genes, it’s usually not too much of an issue, but still should be looked at by a doctor to ensure there isn’t an underlying condition lurking. For many people, they do not recognize early in life that they have this gene. But it’s important to know that ‘prominent’ eyes and ‘bulging’ eyes are two different things. The best way to see if your eyes are bulging is to compare photographs from present day and 10-20 years ago. There are numerous causes for bulging eyes, such as:
- Graves Disease
- Hyperthyroidism caused by medications for other conditions
- Orbital Cellulitis
- Periorbital Cellulitis
Treatment for Bulging Eyes
Treating bulging eyes heavily depends on the underlying cause. Eyes do not bulge out for any given reason, so it’s safe to assume there is a more serious problem lurking. Depending on the underlying causes, medications can help. Other times, in more serious cases, surgery may be necessary. There is really nothing you can do at-home or on your own to correct this problem. Treatment needs to be done by your health care professional.
- J. Lavine, MD “The Eye Care Sourcebook” (McGraw-Hill Companies, 2001) 253
- J. DiGirolama, MD “The Big Book of Family Eye Care” (Basic Health Publications, 2011) 221-222