Thyroid Eye Disease – Testimonial

“I had Grave’s disease and very puffy eyes for about 15 years. At one time I had double vision as well. Then out of the blue I began to lose my vision…

I first noticed that there were very blurry patches in my vision when I was looking out our window at a very familiar big bushy plant in our garden. Day by day, as if using the bush as my own eye chart at home, I realized that gradually over a period of only 1-2 weeks, I could no longer see the shinyness of the sun on the leaves, and could only see the outer edges of the bush clearly; the rest was very dark and I was unable to distinguish the individual leaves. I became alarmed when I realized that my eyes could no longer see what they had seen clearly just two weeks before. At the same time, my eyes were very itchy, red, and watery, and there was an extra liquid and swelling built up in the outside corners of my eyes.

I went to an optometrist and was diagnosed with dry eyes. He put plugs in my tear ducts and sent me home. A week later the dark area in my vision was a lot larger. I could only make out the outer edges of the bush I had looked at before. So I went back to the optometrist, but saw a different doctor in the same office. He immediately detected a significant loss of vision and referred me to Dr. Cockerham. He insisted that I contact her that same day.

She scheduled an appointment with me the following day, squeezing me into what must have already been a completely full schedule at UCSF, and scheduled me for emergency surgery for the following week. I was amazed and very grateful at how quickly Dr. Cockerham was able to coordinate my surgery with her co-surgeon, especially since it was the Christmas and Hanukah holiday week.

She explained that I had thyroid eye disease (TED) which can cause the muscles and fat in the space behind the eyes to expand. TED was also the reason for my puffy eyes and double vision. When the muscles and fat expand and there is not enough space in the orbit (the bony compartment for the eye,) the optic nerve can be compressed. This can cause a permanent loss of vision, if not corrected. The purpose of the surgery would be to remove a window of bone in the orbit to create more space for the eye and take pressure off the optic nerve. It would take two surgeries to complete this. The first would be done with a Ear-Nose-Throat (ENT) co-surgeon where he would perform an endoscopic procedure through the nose. In the second surgery, Dr. Cockerham would remove bone from the other side of the orbit. I was completely confident to go forward with both surgeries because I trusted Dr. Cockerham due to her professionalism and the thorough explanation she provided me as to how the surgery could possibly help to restore my vision. She also stated that I might need radiation treatment after the surgeries, which I did require for ten days.

I distinctly remember thinking as I walked in to the hospital on the morning of my first surgery, that I desperately wanted to go through with the scheduled surgeries and the radiation, so that I would always be able to see the expressions on my six year old son's face as he grew up on his way to becoming a young man. I would have missed seeing his radiant smile that always uplifted my spirits the most, had I lost my vision. By that point, I had to hold on to my partner's arm in order to feel more secure in judging and maneuvering the step down over the curb to walk safely and quickly across the busy intersection to enter the hospital. I remember that I took one last long look at the blue sky and the clouds before I entered the hospital, trying to soak up its' beauty, feeling grateful that I could still see it, and hoping that after completing the surgeries and radiation, I would be able to see everything in its' exquisite detail again.

Thankfully, after the two surgeries and the ten successive days of radiation, my vision was completely restored. The healing process from the surgery took time, approximately six weeks, but in combination with the radiation treatment, it worked and it was completely worth it to regain my full sight! My eyelids are still a little puffy, but I can see beautifully and that’s all that matters to me. I trusted Dr. Cockerham from the first appointment I had with her. She referred me to an excellent radiologist and she has taken care of my eyes ever since. She is an absolute pro and I recommend her unhesitatingly to anyone with thyroid eye disease.

If you are a person with TED and you notice any subtle vision loss whatsoever, I urge you to seek professional help immediately, because in my case, the vision loss progressed so quickly that had I not acted, it might have been permanent and would most likely have continued to deteriorate. I might not have been able to see my son score his first three pointer as an eleven year old, continue to work full time, bicycle across the Golden Gate bridge with my family, see the myriad of colors in my partner's elaborate flower garden outside our mountain home, nor get back to living life to the fullest!

In my opinion and from my experience, the current cutting edge care that I am receiving from Dr. Cockerham and from each and every expert professional to whom she refers me, is thorough, conscientious, and stellar. I know that if there is any procedure available that will help to maintain my vision or lessen the discomforts of TED, Dr. Cockerham will keep me informed, and I will always entrust the health care needs of my eyes to her professional expert care."

Close Window | Make An Appointment