There is a marked difference between having big eyes and eyes that bulge abnormally. Bulging eyes should not be confused with having large eyes. Bulging eyes are those where the whites of the eyes are visible above the cornea (circular black portion of the eye). Medically, bulging eyes are referred to as proptosis or exophthalmos. 

Let’s find out more about bulging eyes. 

Eyes protrude from the eye sockets if there is a swelling of muscles, fat or tissue behind the eyes. This is dangerous because it exposes the cornea and makes it difficult for the eyes to stay moist and lubricated. 

In extreme cases, it can also put the optic nerve (located in the back of the eye) under pressure and may even lead to potential vision loss. This is especially serious if noticed only in one eye. 

Causes of Bulging Eyes

Some of the causes behind bulging eyes are:

  • An overactive thyroid gland 

  • Graves disease is an autoimmune condition that makes the thyroid gland release cells and antibodies that fuse the eye muscles. This can directly trigger the condition by causing inflammation of the tissues around the eyes or indirectly trigger the condition as it also causes hyperthyroidism.

  • An injury that causes bleeding behind the eye

  • Vascular disorders (causing a buildup of blood vessels in the skin or inside the orbit)

  • Leukaemia 

  • Neuroblastoma or nerve cancer 

  • Infection 

 Symptoms of Bulging Eyes

Apart from the visible bulge in the eyes, other symptoms of proptosis are:

  • Excessive dryness

  • Pain 

  • Redness of the eyes

  • Difficulty in closing eyes 

  • Problem with eye movement

 Diagnosis And Treatment of Bulging Eyes

A doctor may use further blood and imaging tests to confirm a diagnosis of proptosis. 

Treatment for bulging eyes depends on the condition triggering it. Usual forms of treatment include: 

  • Applying eye drops or artificial tears

  • Wearing sunglasses

  • Administration of corticosteroids (drugs that reduce inflammation)

  • Chemotherapy or radiation to treat tumours 

  • Surgery to repair damaged blood vessels 

In cases where eyes bulge because of Graves disease, the following treatment modalities may also be used: 

  • Use of beta-blockers (drugs that lower stress on the heart and blood vessels)

  • Anti-thyroid medications

  • Removal of the thyroid gland 

  • Administration of replacement hormones 

  • Radiation to lower the functioning of the thyroid gland 

  • Orbital decompression surgery where one or more eye socket walls is removed

Do not ignore any concerning symptoms related to your eye health. Contact your ophthalmologist for a confirmed diagnosis and prompt treatment. 

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.