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    Eyes - bulging

    Protruding eyes; Exophthalmos; Proptosis; Bulging eyes

    Bulging eyes is the abnormal protrusion (bulging out) of one or both eyeballs.


    Prominent eyes may be a family trait. But prominent eyes are not the same as bulging eyes. Bulging eyes should be checked by a doctor right away.

    Bulging ofone eye, especially in a child, is a very serious sign. It should bechecked immediately.

    Hyperthyroidism (particularly Graves disease) is the most common cause of bulging eyes. With this condition, the eyes do notblink often and seem to have a staring quality.

    Normally, there should be no visible white between the top of the iris (the colored part of the eye) and the upper eyelid. Seeing white in this area usually is a sign that the eye isbulging.

    Because eye changes develop slowly, family members may not notice it until the condition is relatively advanced. Photos often draw attention to the bulging when it may have gone unnoticed before.


    • Glaucoma
    • Graves disease
    • Hemangioma
    • Histiocytosis
    • Hyperthyroidism
    • Hyperthyroidism caused by medications for other conditions
    • Leukemia
    • Neuroblastoma
    • Orbital cellulitis or periorbital cellulitis
    • Rhabdomyosarcoma

    Home Care

    The cause needs to be treated by a health care provider. Because bulging eyes can cause a person to be self-conscious, emotional support is important.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    • You have bulging eyes and the cause has not yet been diagnosed.
    • Bulging eyes are accompanied by other symptoms.

    What to Expect at Your Office Visit

    The health care provider will ask about your medical history and do a physical examination.

    Medical history questions may include the following:

    • Are both eyes bulging?
    • When did you first notice bulging eyes?
    • Is it getting worse?
    • What other symptoms do you have?

    A slit-lamp examination may be done. Blood testing for thyroid disease may be done.

    Treatments depend on the cause. Artificial tears may be given to lubricate the eye.


    Clemmons DR. Approach to the patient with endocrine disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 228.

    Yanoff M, Cameron D. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA:Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 431.


    • Graves' disease


    • Hyperthyroidism


    • Periorbital cellulitis


      • Graves' disease


      • Hyperthyroidism


      • Periorbital cellulitis


      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

          Self Care

            Tests for Eyes - bulging

              Review Date: 1/22/2013

              Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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              St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
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