A newly approved drug called teprotumumab will offer hope to adults with thyroid eye disease. Thyroid eye disease is a rare condition that develops in people with hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland.
The function of thyroid hormone in the body
Thyroid hormone penetrates into the nucleus of cells in the body. Here it switches on genes that control your bodily function. Here are some things thyroid hormone does:
- increases your heart’s ability to contract
- regulates the rate at which you breathe
- affects the motility of your gastrointestinal system
- influences the rate at which your bones remodel themselves
- affects your mental alertness.
Regulating thyroid hormone levels
Your body carefully controls how much thyroid is available to the different organs. Both too and too little can be dangerous. The pituitary gland, which sits at the base of your brain, senses the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood. It releases a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Depending on how much you need, TSH turns on and off the production and release of T3 and T4 from the thyroid gland.
But sometimes things go wrong. If your thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone, you will have hypothyroidism. If your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, you will have hypothyroidism.
What causes hyperthyroidism?
This happens usually when the body’s immune system attacks its own thyroid gland. It’s called Graves’ disease. Antibodies stimulate the TSH receptors in the thyroid. This leads to increased production and release of thyroid hormone. You’ll feel like your body is racing.
What are the symptoms?
- a rapid heartbeat
- profuse sweating
- heat intolerance
- insomnia, diarrhea, and weight loss
- bulging of the eyes
- a tremor
How Grave’s disease affects the eyes
The disorder can cause redness, swelling and a gritty feeling in the eyes. It can also cause dry eyes or excessive tearing, double vision and sensitivity to light. One of the most noticeable symptoms is bulging of the eyes. It may be difficult to completely close the eyes.
In people with the condition, inflammation in the back of the eye causes the eyes to bulge. The swelling may also squeeze the optic nerve. This causes vision problems which could lead to blindness.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism
Until now treatment options were medications, radioactive iodine and surgery. But things have changed for the better. The new drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It will be marketed under the brand name Tepezza.
Because thyroid eye disease is rare, the FDA gave this drug “orphan drug” status. This means companies are provided incentives to encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.