Management of Graves' ophthalmopathy

Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab. 2007 May;3(5):396-404. doi: 10.1038/ncpendmet0497.


Management of Graves' ophthalmopathy is preferably done in a multidisciplinary setting. Smoking is associated with worse disease outcome. (131)I therapy for hyperthyroidism can also worsen ophthalmopathy, especially if administered during active disease or to patients who smoke or have severe hyperthyroidism, or those with high levels of TSH-receptor-binding inhibitory immunoglobulins. Coadministration of steroids and (131)I therapy is recommended for such high-risk patients. (131)I therapy is safe for patients with inactive Graves' ophthalmopathy. Subtotal thyroidectomy and antithyroid drugs show no benefit or harm to eye changes. There is no good evidence that total thyroid ablation has additional benefit. Artificial teardrops, dark glasses and prisms are very helpful. Dysthyroid optic neuropathy is best treated with intravenous pulsed methylprednisolone; if visual functions do not recover, urgent surgical decompression is indicated. A wait-and-see policy is recommended in mild Graves' ophthalmopathy because the natural history of this condition reveals a tendency to resolve spontaneously. Active, moderately severe Graves' ophthalmopathy qualifies for immunosuppression: intravenous pulsed methylprednisolone is more efficacious and has fewer side effects than oral steroids. Once the disease is inactive, rehabilitative surgery has much to offer. Quality of life is seriously limited in patients with Graves' ophthalmopathy, and remains restricted even after all treatments. Consequently, there is an urgent need for improved treatment modalities, and antibody therapy has shown promise in this respect.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Eye Diseases / therapy
  • Female
  • Graves Ophthalmopathy / diagnosis*
  • Graves Ophthalmopathy / etiology
  • Graves Ophthalmopathy / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ophthalmologic Surgical Procedures
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Thyroid Diseases / therapy