Bulging eyes, or proptosis, occurs when one or both eyes protrude from the eye sockets due to space taking lesions such as swelling of the muscles, fat, and tissue behind the eye. This causes more of the cornea to be exposed to air, making it more difficult to keep eyes moist and lubricated. In extreme cases, bulging eyes can create a large amount of pressure on the optic nerve, potentially leading to vision loss.

Often prominent eyes are mistaken for bulging eyes. Prominent eyes are generally hereditary and in most cases are harmless. However, bulging eyes may be caused by a more serious condition.

What Causes Bulging Eyes?

Bulging eyes may be caused by a number of diseases and conditions, including buphthalmos, glaucoma in early childhood, hyperthyroidism, leukemia, and more.

The most common cause of bulging eyes is Graves’ disease, or more specifically, Graves’ ophthalmopathy – an autoimmune condition where the thyroid gland mistakenly senses harmful cells and releases antibodies, which then fuse to eye muscles and cause inflammation.

Symptoms of Bulging Eyes

Bulging eyes are usually a symptom of another condition. Symptoms of Bulging eyes may include:

  • Appearance of protruding eyes

  • Excessive dryness in eyes

  • Visible whiteness between the top of the iris and the eyelid

  • Eye pain

  • Eye redness

Treatment for Bulging Eyes

The underlying cause of bulging eyes will determine the overall course of treatment. However, in all cases, bulging eyes will be exposed to more air making it difficult to keep them lubricated. To combat excessive dryness, artificial tears and eye drops can be used for moisture and lubrication.