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Finding Your Strength While Living with Thyroid Eye Disease (TED)

(BPT) - LaQuilla Harris, a devoted mother, grandmother and retired property manager, led a healthy and active lifestyle for many years before her world gradually began to turn upside down.

Over the course of a decade, LaQuilla began to struggle with weight loss, insomnia, and debilitating anxiety and irritability. She was also experiencing dry, bulging eyes and vision changes. Despite visiting doctor after doctor, each of them failed to give her answers and find an effective treatment plan.

'At the time, I didn't know what I was going through and that was hard. My family saw me struggling but nobody knew how to help me,' LaQuilla said.

LaQuilla continued to advocate for herself, seeing four separate doctors before eventually connecting with a team that understood her needs. Finally, after years of struggling, LaQuilla was diagnosed with Graves' disease, when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing it to become overactive and produce more thyroid hormone than the body needs, and Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) - an autoimmune condition that is separate from but related to her Graves' disease and requires separate care.

While she was able to get her Graves' disease under control rather quickly, unfortunately, her journey of managing TED has been a marathon of ups and downs. TED is a condition where your immune system mistakenly attacks the muscle and fat tissue behind your eyes, causing inflammation and scar tissue to form.

'Because my symptoms were undetected for so long, I first lost sight in my left eye and then rapidly lost sight in my right eye. I didn't want anybody to see me. It was really challenging, both physically and mentally,' she said.

With the help of the right care team and a great deal of courage, LaQuilla pressed on toward reclaiming her health.

'I had a total of eight eye surgeries. Thanks to each of those surgeries, I finally have my vision back. Although my vision is not 20/20, I am very grateful for where I am today,' she said.

Now, determined to help others avoid similar challenges, LaQuilla continues to speak out about her journey with TED and ensure others living with a thyroid condition such as Graves' disease or Hashimoto's understand their risk.

For People Living with a Thyroid Condition:

  • You are at an increased risk of developing TED. In fact, up to 50% of people living with Graves' disease may develop TED
    • Women are up to five times more likely to develop TED than men
    • People who smoke increase their risk for TED eight-fold
  • Make an appointment with a TED Eye Specialist such as an oculoplastic surgeon or neuro-ophthalmologist at the first signs of any changes in your eyes, such as eye pain, dry eyes, watery eyes, bulging, light sensitivity or double vision
  • To find a TED Eye Specialist near you, visit and click 'Find a Specialist'

Power of Positivity and Perseverance

LaQuilla's story underscores the importance of self-advocacy and finding the right doctors. She wants those living with any undiagnosed symptoms to keep asking questions, seek second options and look for answers until they get the care they need.

'Never give up. Do not quit. Pull that strength from within you and know that you can tackle anything!'

Recently, LaQuilla was featured in a documentary project called 'Portraits of Life with TED' hosted by TED community group, Listen to Your Eyes. In the documentary, artist and rare disease advocate Rachel Mindrup interviews LaQuilla, Christine and Jake - all of whom live with TED - and creates one-of-a-kind portraits depicting each of them doing something they love - despite TED.

'I wanted my portrait to show me picking pecans off a tree, like I used to do when I was growing up. That feels like home to me,' LaQuilla said.

Her portrait will be revealed in the final installation of the documentary series later this year. In the meantime, LaQuilla continues to advocate for people living with TED and other autoimmune disorders. By sharing her story, she hopes to inspire others to push through adversity, continue advocating for themselves, and to find the light even in the darkest of times.

To learn more about TED and watch the first part of the documentary series, visit

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