A woman is dressed up with a shocked look on her face as her protruding eyes are looking different directions.

It’s Not Vanity

I was excited about becoming a Health Leader on thyroideyedisease.net, but when I was asked to provide a picture with my bio, I almost turned down the opportunity. I never thought of myself as a vain person – at least not after my teenage years. Since I have had thyroid eye disease, I barely recognize myself.

Deciding which picture to use

When I was first diagnosed with Graves disease and thyroid eye disease, I was prescribed beta blockers and steroids – massive weight gain and chipmunk cheeks. Ok, not going to use those pictures.

My daughter was married when my eyes were probably the most protruding – it was the week before my orbital decompression surgery. I was so happy, it never dawned on me to practice facial expressions before the big day. My smile is big and so are my eyes. Sometimes I seem to be looking at the camera, sometimes not. I heard a family member telling a guest I had the same disease that Rodney Dangerfield had, the old-time comedian that was known for his protruding eyes and "unattractive" appearance. I am still sad when I see the pictures of me at her wedding.

Changes in my vision

Then there were the months that I could not see my own face in the mirror. The orbital decompression saved my vision, but I still had a blind spot and unfortunately it made it hard to see my face. Whether it was the combination of the distance to the mirror or the angle or the lighting or blurry vision I do not know, but when I looked in the mirror it was hard for me to focus on my own face.

Soon, my eyes became severely misaligned.

When your eyes are protruding you can partially close them. When you know you are not looking at someone directly you can adjust. When one eye is looking one way and the other is going a different way, there is nothing you can do.

I went to a friend’s son’s wedding during that time. I had to ask my neighbor if I put on my makeup correctly. I could not tell.

During all these times I preferred not to see pictures of me. It was not only my eyes, I also could not see my hair, my makeup, my eyebrows, my fingernails. Now I realize the bags under my eyes are never going to go away. They are just another "gift" from thyroid eye disease.

Thyroid eye disease changed the way I see myself: It's not vanity

I still wear a mask when I go into crowded places, so my eyes are all you can see. My eyes, that are often red, watery, and very puffy. Recently they were also behind a prism lens. People stared and often asked what it was.

Today my eyes are not misaligned because I recently had surgery (I will write about that at a different time) but all the other symptoms are still here.

I do not look good in pictures, but mostly I do not look like the person I see in my mind. I no longer am aging to look like my mother or her mother. Thyroid eye disease took away looking like me.

Trying to decide on a picture for my bio given this array was a daunting task which is why I chose to wear sunglasses.

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