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Exophthalmos is a condition in which one or both eyeballs bulge forward, exposing an abnormally large part of the front of the eye. The most common cause of the condition is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid gland to become overactive. Other possible causes of exophthalmos include a tumor behind the eyeball or inflammation of the tissue behind the eyeball.


If exophthalmos is caused by Graves’ disease, the doctor will treat Graves’ disease. However, successful treatment of Graves’ disease may not eliminate the bulging, and the ophthalmologist may prescribe corticosteroid drugs to relieve the inflammation and pain. If there is loss of vision, radiation therapy may be recommended.

An ophthalmologist may recommend surgery on the eyelids to help protect the exposed eyeball and prevent corneal ulcers from developing. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to increase the orbital space and relieve the pressure behind the eyeball. If a tumor is detected, the ophthalmologist will probably recommend a biopsy (in which samples of cells are taken from the tumor and examined under a microscope), or surgery to remove the tumor. Depending on the results of the biopsy, the doctor may recommend radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both.

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