A smiling woman in a bright space is wearing a large sun hat with large, dark sunglasses.

Patient Leader Preferences: Sunglasses or Hats?

Last updated: September 2022

We recently asked our thyroid eye disease (TED) community members to share their preferences with us on a variety of topics. We soon realized that sometimes the answers were complex, and we were interested in learning more about the reasons people chose specific answers.

So, we asked our patient leader team to answer the following question: "This OR That: Sunglasses or Hats?" By asking the question in an open-ended way, we gave the patient leaders the opportunity to fully explain their answers. Here are two responses from our patient leaders. Can you relate?

Sunglasses and hats for thyroid eye disease: How can they help?

Feeling more confident and comfortable

"Sunglasses and I are very good friends. Other than a few instances after orbital decompression surgery, I did not experience light sensitivity as part of my symptoms. However, sunglasses are a regular tool that I use to assist me with thyroid eye disease.

Unfortunately, my eyes pushing forward and my eyelids retracting have greatly impacted my mental health, confidence, and how I see myself. Photos became incredibly difficult for me – each click of the camera was a painful road to navigate. How do I pose? Do my eyes look wild? Who even is that in the photo? Will my friend notice if I quietly untag myself on social media? Will they understand if I ask them to delete it?

So I began wearing sunglasses in my photos with friends. I never felt like I was hiding behind the glasses. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Sunglasses helped me feel more comfortable. I didn’t have to worry what the pictures looked like later. Wearing sunglasses helped make photos feel like a non-issue. I could simply enjoy my time with my friends. A few of my very perceptive friends even joined in and wore their sunglasses, too. I wasn’t hiding in those photos – I was supported." –Jessica

Keeping out the elements: wind and light

"Many of us with TED take on new daily habits to keep our eyes calm; that is, without pain and sensitivity caused by sunlight, white lights, and wind. The two most common actions we take may be wearing sunglasses or a sun hat throughout the day for protection. For me, it isn't an either/or choice. There are times I resort to both. Sunglasses alone help for short sprints outside, like running out to get the mail or sitting on the patio with a morning cup of coffee, or even driving in the car.

After much trial and error, I have decided I need both a sun hat and a good pair of sunglasses if I'm going to be outside for more than a short sprint. When I am going for a long walk with my dog, I wear both. When I go for bike rides, I wear both. If my day requires that I will be in and out for long periods of time, I have learned to keep both my sun hat and sunglasses handy.

Another example of when I wear both is when I go kayaking! Oh, how the sun and wind would torment my eyes! If I don't use both, my eyes are very upset with me and get so achy and fatigued. The combination of sunglasses and a sun hat seems to protect my eyes more from the sun and wind. The fun part of this is that I have grown fond of stylish sunglasses and sassy sun hats." –Roxann

What is your preference?

Do you use sunglasses, hats, or other tools in your TED journey? We would love to learn more about what you prefer to use, and why! Also, if you have found other tools helpful, either with physical symptoms or emotional ones, we would love to learn about them. Share your story with us by clicking the button below, or start a conversation in the forums section!

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