Lupus and Thyroid Eye Disease

Getting a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease like thyroid eye disease (TED) can leave you with some unanswered questions. Your doctor will likely tell you that the disease does not have a cure but is manageable. However, you may not have been told that having 1 autoimmune disease, such as TED, raises your chance of developing another.1

It is hard for doctors to know how many autoimmune diseases may be linked. Because TED and other autoimmune diseases might be misdiagnosed or take longer to identify, certain illnesses can go undetected. However, doctors have found that some conditions occur more often in those with TED.2

One autoimmune condition, lupus, can increase the risk of thyroid problems. Understanding autoimmune conditions like lupus or TED is still largely a mystery. However, knowing what each of these conditions are, along with possible reasons for their connection, can help you better understand symptoms and possible treatment options for both.3

What is lupus?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease. It occurs when your immune system starts to attack your own healthy cells. This leads to inflammation and pain.4

Systemic lupus (SLE) is the most common form of lupus. It affects about 7 in 10 people with lupus. In SLE, the immune system attacks healthy skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs. Because SLE targets different organs, symptoms and severity vary from person to person.4,5

Joint pain and swelling, especially in the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees, are the most common symptoms. Other symptoms of SLE include:6

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Headaches
  • Rash
  • Fever without a known cause
  • Sensitivity to sun or light
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal blood clotting
  • Chest pain, especially when deep breathing (pleurisy)

Understanding autoimmune disease

The exact cause of different autoimmune disorders remains unknown. However, doctors do know that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself. Inflammation, swelling, and pain are common between autoimmune disorders. Where symptoms occur depends on the target of the body’s attack.1

Many factors likely contribute to developing autoimmune disease. Your genes, immune system, and your environment all play a role.1

What you need to know about lupus and thyroid eye disease

Lupus can increase your chances of having thyroid problems, which can lead to TED. Lupus, Graves’ disease, and TED are all autoimmune conditions. Having 1 of these diseases may increase your chance of having another. However, this is not always the case.1,7

People who have been diagnosed with lupus should be aware of the symptoms of thyroid disease, such as:7

  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Fatigue
  • Skin problems
  • Dry hair

Many of these symptoms may overlap with lupus symptoms. This can make diagnosing thyroid problems difficult. Keeping track of your symptoms and talking to your doctor about them can help.7

If you have lupus and have been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, you should be aware of TED. If you notice any eye symptoms that are out of the ordinary or that cause irritation, talk to your doctor.

Living with an autoimmune disease can be challenging. It is important to remember that both lupus and TED can be managed with different treatments. If you notice symptoms of TED, talk to your care team. Your doctor can help you find the best treatment for both lupus and TED. Partnering with your doctor can help you best prepare to face these challenges and live a happy and productive life.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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