Bulging eyes may be inherited, but most cases they are related to a problem with the thyroid. Read more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of bulging eyes.

Proptosis, or exophthalmos, is the bulging out of one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) of the eyes. Cases of proptosis develop for reasons ranging from variations in our anatomy to the development of another condition such as hyperthyroidism, of which bulging eyes are a symptom. If a person suddenly develops proptosis, especially in both eyes, it is considered a very serious problem. Sudden onsets of proptosis should always be evaluated by an eye doctor immediately.

In mild cases of proptosis a doctor can take measurements with a ruler or an exophthalmometer. As long as measurements are within a certain range, more testing is not necessary. If measurements are out of the normal range, however, other tests will be conducted, possibly including an MRI, blood work, ultrasound, or even a biopsy.

Proptosis can become a very serious situation for some people. The bulging orbit may increase the intraocular pressure behind and inside the eye. As the intraocular pressure increases, so do risks for other eye diseases such as glaucoma.

Alternate Names for Bulging Eyes
There are many different names experts use when referring to bulging eyes, such as:
  • Proptosis
  • Protruding Eyes
  • Exophthalmos
  • Bulging Eyes

It is important to know the different names and terms experts use so you can follow conversations with your doctor.
Bulging Eyes Symptoms
Normally, there should be no visible white between the top of the iris (the colored part of the eye) and the upper eyelid. Visible white in this area is usually a sign of abnormal eye bulging. There are many symptoms that accompany bulging eyes, including:
  • Difficulty closing eyes fully while sleeping or blinking
  • Drying of the cornea
  • Discomfort
  • Scarring which can lead to permanent vision loss
  • Difficulty with eye movement
  • Increase in white part of eye showing

Causes of Bulging Eyes

There is almost always an underlying cause for bulging eyes, and it is usually related to the thyroid. If you were born with prominent eyesthat is, if it is geneticit is usually not too big a problem, but you still should have your eyes looked at by a doctor to ensure there is not an underlying condition lurking. Many people fail to recognize early in life that they have this gene.

It is important to know that prominent eyes and bulging eyes are two different things. The best way to see whether your eyes are bulging is to compare present-day photographs of yourself with photos taken ten to twenty years ago. There are numerous causes for bulging eyes, such as:

  • Glaucoma
  • Graves Disease
  • Hemangioma
  • Histiocytosis
  • Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism caused by medications for other conditions
  • Leukemia
  • Orbital Cellulitis
  • Periorbital Cellulitis
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Retinoblastoma
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Hemorrhages behind the eye
  • Injury to the eye