Skip to main content
Select Source:

Exophthalmos

Exophthalmos

Definition

When there is an increase in the volume of the tissue behind the eyes, the eyes will appear to bulge out of the face. The terms exophthalmos and proptosis apply. Proptosis can refer to any organ that is displaced forward, while exophthalmos refers just to the eyes.

Description

The eye socket (orbit) is made of bone and therefore will not yield to increased pressure within it. Only forward displacement of the eyeball (globe) will allow more room if tissue behind the eye is increasing.

Causes and symptoms

The most common cause of exophthalmos is Graves' disease, overactivity of the thyroid gland. The contents of the orbits swell due to inflammation, forcing the eyes forward. The inflammation affects primarily the muscles. This combination of muscle impairment and forward displacement reduces eye movement, causing double vision and crossed eyes (strabismus ). The optic nerves can also be affected, reducing vision, and the clear membrane (conjunctiva) covering the white part of the eyes and lining the inside of the eyelids can swell. Finally, the eyes may protrude so far that the eyelids cannot close over them, leading to corneal damage.

Exophthalmos from Graves' disease is bilateral (occurring on both sides), but not necessarily symmetrical. In contrast, exophthalmos from orbital tumors or a blood clot in the brain happens on only one side.

Diagnosis

Exophthalmos is obvious when it is advanced enough to cause complications. When there is doubt in the early stages, a mechanical device called an exophthalmometer can measure the protrusion. Computed tomography scans (CT scans) are of great value in examining the bony components of the orbit. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning is equally valuable for displaying the contents of the orbit, because it "sees through" the bone.

Treatment

If a tumor is growing behind the eye, it needs to be removed. If Graves' disease is the cause, it may subside with treatment of the overactive thyroid, but this is not guaranteed. Local care to the front of the eye to keep it moist is necessary if the eyelid cannot close.

Prognosis

Exophthalmos can be progressive. Its progress must be carefully followed, treating complications as they occur.

Prevention

Vision can usually be preserved with attentive treatment. There is currently no way to prevent any of the underlying conditions that lead to exophthalmos.

Resources

BOOKS

Fauci, Anthony S., et al., editors. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.

KEY TERMS

Conjunctivae The clear membranes that line the inside of the eyelids and cover the white part (sclera) of the eyeballs.

Cornea The clear, dome-shaped part of the front of the eye, through which light first enters the eye. It is located in front of the colored part of the eye (iris).

Inflammation The body's reaction to invasion by foreign matter, particularly infection. The result is swelling and redness from an increase in water and blood, and pain from the chemical activity of the reaction.

Strabismus Any deviation of the eyes from a common direction. Commonly called a turned eye.

Thyroid A gland in the neck overlying the windpipe that regulates the speed of metabolic processes by producing a hormone, thyroxin.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Exophthalmos." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Exophthalmos." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 18, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/exophthalmos

"Exophthalmos." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Retrieved December 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/exophthalmos

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

exophthalmos

exophthalmos (eks-off-thal-mos) n. protrusion of the eyeballs in their sockets. This can result from injury or disease of the eyeball or socket but is most commonly associated with overactivity of the thyroid gland (see thyrotoxicosis).
exophthalmic adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"exophthalmos." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"exophthalmos." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 18, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/exophthalmos

"exophthalmos." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Retrieved December 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/exophthalmos

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.