Background: The pathogenesis of Graves' ophthalmopathy has not been yet clarified, and from a therapeutic standpoint Graves' ophthalmopathy remains an enigma. The natural course and effects of different treatment regimens are poorly documented.
Results: The mean observation period was 3.23 years (1-8.9 years) for all 196 patients, and 2.85 years (1-8.9 years) for the 81 patients with Graves' ophthalmopathy. The gender distribution was 77% female and 23% male in patients with Graves' disease and ophthalmopathy, and 81% female and 19% male in those patients without ophthalmopathy (p = 0.57). Seventy per cent of the patients developed Graves' ophthalmopathy within 12 months before or after the onset of the hyperthyroidism. Among the 81 patients with ophthalmopathy 53 (65%) received no therapy or only local protective agents. Twenty-five of these patients improved substantially, 26 did not change, and 2 deteriorated progressively. These results were independent of the severity of the EO (p = 0.42). Among the 11 patients initially treated with systemic corticosteroids 7 improved, 3 did not change, and 1 worsened. Five patients received initially orbital irradiation. Three improved and 2 did not change after radiotherapy. Orbital decompression was performed in 3 patients. Nine patients received a combination treatment.
Conclusion: In conclusion, our study of a relatively large patient sample revealed the known epidemiological facts regarding Graves' disease and endocrine ophthalmopathy. The majority of patients needed no therapy or only local protective agents, and 47% improved spontaneously. Systemic corticosteroids and orbital irradiation appear to be equally effective as initial treatment in patients with more severe forms of Graves' ophthalmopathy.