How to Get the Most Out of a Virtual Doctor Visit for Thyroid Eye Disease

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Thyroid eye disease (TED) is a condition resulting from inflammation in the tissue around the eyes. It’s typically linked to thyroid dysfunction, and as many as one half of all people with overactive thyroid eventually develop thyroid eye disease. Symptoms are usually mild although physical changes to the area around the eye are possible, and there are effective treatments available depending on the stage of your condition. Regular visits to your ophthalmologist are essential to managing TED, but it’s not always possible to get to the doctor’s office. Fortunately, many doctors are offering telehealth appointments to provide care remotely.

A virtual doctor visit differs from an in-person appointment, but this type of meeting can be just as important to preserving your eye health. If you’re interested in telemedicine for thyroid eye disease, your doctor can help you determine whether this treatment approach could be right for you.

Virtual Doctor Visits for Thyroid Eye Disease

Your telehealth visit may be over the phone, although video conferencing calls are more common. Unlike in-person eye examinations, a virtual doctor visit won’t be able to give your doctor information about your internal eye pressure, your visual acuity, or how healthy your retina and optic nerve are. You’ll still need to see your ophthalmologist regularly for these types of measurements. However, your doctor may use an online examination to estimate your eye refraction, which is a measure of how well you can see.

A virtual doctor visit can also help your doctor monitor your symptoms, determine how well medications work for you, or suggest new treatments which may relieve your symptoms. If you have surgery for thyroid eye disease, a telehealth appointment can also allow your doctor to follow up with you to make sure you’re healing properly.

Thyroid eye disease has two phases: active and stable. The active phase typically lasts from one to three years, during which inflammation is high, causing symptoms like eye pain and physical changes like bulging eyes. During the active phase, it’s important to connect regularly with your ophthalmologist and find an effective treatment plan. Telehealth can help during this phase to ensure you stay in touch with your doctor while reducing trips to the office. This may help prevent complications from occurring, since you’ll be communicating with your doctor on a regular basis.

Preparing to See Your Online Ophthalmologist

If you’re using telehealth to see an online ophthalmologist, you can take several steps to prepare and get the most out of your visit. Most doctors prefer live video conferencing, since it allows them to conduct a visual examination of your eyes and speak with you in real time. If you’ll be meeting with your doctor this way, download any apps you’ll need and be sure to check your internet connection before your appointment. A strong, secure internet connection is essential, especially since you’ll be sharing personal health information.

During your appointment, you should be able to speak freely and openly with your doctor without a bunch of distractions or noise in the background. You should set up your computer in a well-lit, quiet area of your house. Be sure to let others in your household know you’ll be speaking with your doctor and they shouldn’t interrupt you.

It can be helpful to have a pen and paper handy so you can jot down notes during your consultation. Or, if you prefer, you may ask a family member or close friend to sit with you during the appointment. Another person can help bring up any questions or concerns if you forget.

Because thyroid eye disease affects many parts of your eyes, it’s important to tell your doctor about any eye symptoms you experience, no matter how mild. Certain symptoms, such as decreased movement of your eye and eyelids, may indicate a worsening of your condition. Sharing this information with your doctor helps you get more effective treatment quickly and can prevent serious complications, like vision loss.

Telehealth visits for thyroid eye disease probably won’t entirely replace in-person appointments, but they can be vital to monitoring the health of your eyes. If you’re interested in this type of treatment approach, ask your doctor whether a virtual visit could be beneficial. In many cases, virtual doctor visits help keep your treatment plan on track, especially during the active phase of thyroid eye disease.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jun 4
  1. Graves’ Eye Disease. American Thyroid Association. https://www.thyroid.org/graves-eye-disease/
  2. Thyroid Eye Disease. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17558-thyroid-eye-disease
  3. Online Eye Tests. American Optometric Association. https://www.aoa.org/online-eye-test
  4. Telehealth Basics. American Telehealth Association. https://www.americantelemed.org/resource/why-telemedicine/
  5. A Beginner’s Guide to Telehealth. U.S. News and World Report. https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/a-beginners-guide-to-a-virtual-doctors-visit
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