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Sight for Sore Eyes: Breakthrough Treatment Tackles Advanced Thyroid Eye Disease

Wednesday, January 26, 2022 9:30 AM

By Martha Floberg

When she is not working out at the gym or riding her bike, Molly Pierson is busy taking care of others as a nurse. But when the 46-year-old from Lake Bluff became nauseous, developed double vision and other unusual symptoms, her bike riding and the job she loved came to an abrupt stop.

“I had to take a medical leave because my symptoms interfered with my ability to do my job,” said Pierson. “In addition to double vision, my eyes were bulging and the eyelashes on my swollen eyelids were rolling inward. It was extremely painful.”

Molly Pierson

Looking for Answers
Pierson, who suffers from a condition known as Graves’ disease, turned to the NorthShore Ophthalmology team, which offers specialized expertise from everyday eye exams to the latest advanced procedures to treat diseases and long-term eye conditions.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that can lead to hyperthyroidism and inflammation of the muscles and fatty tissue behind the eye. Until recently, patients required surgery to reduce symptoms of thyroid eye disease.

“In some patients with Graves’ disease, a rare manifestation of advanced thyroid eye disease can occur called epiblepharon—which can cause significant discomfort when the eyes push forward and eyelashes brush up against its surface,” explained Paras Shah, MD, NorthShore Division Chief of Ophthalmology. “Patients with Asian heritage can have natural skin folds in the lower eyelids which can predisposed them to these more severe signs of the disease.”

Recovery in the Blink of an Eye
Molly was the perfect candidate for Tepezza®, the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat symptoms like hers and now available at NorthShore. According to Dr. Shah, the drug is administered over several weeks during 60- to 90-minute-long appointments at the NorthShore Infusion Center. Tepezza has tolerable side effects for most patients, and after only three of her eight treatments, she saw significant symptom improvement.

“This medication is amazing—and the NorthShore team is awesome!” Pierson added. She has returned to work and is back on her bike as part of her regular exercise routine. “I can’t say enough about how excellent my care was at NorthShore. They took the time to answer all my questions. Thankfully, my life is back to normal!”