Treatment of Graves' disease and the course of ophthalmopathy

Am J Med. 1989 Jul;87(1):70-3. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(89)80485-1.


Purpose: Contradictory results have been obtained with regards to the effect of various treatment modes on the exacerbation of Graves' ophthalmopathy, probably because the number of patients in each study was small and some studies were analyzed only in relation to one type of treatment. To circument these problems, we studied the course of Graves' ophthalmopathy after various modes of therapy for thyrotoxicosis among 537 patients with Graves' disease.

Patients and methods: A total of 537 patients with Graves' disease were prospectively studied over an 11-year period. Thirty-one patients were lost to follow-up during the first six months after treatment and were excluded from the study. Of those remaining, 426 received one form of treatment, 79 received two kinds of therapy, and one received three kinds of therapy. Thus, surgical treatments numbered 164, radioactive iodine-131 (131I) treatments numbered 241, and medical treatments numbered 182. Ocular signs were considered improved or exacerbated by the following criteria: decrement or increment of the exophthalmos of 2 mm or more, improvement or deterioration of visual acuity, and regression or progression of extraocular muscle involvement causing diplopia.

Results: Among patients who did not have infiltrative ophthalmopathy before treatment, there was no difference in the occurrence of posttreatment exophthalmos in the surgically, medically, and 131I-treated patients (7.1%, 6.7%, and 4.9%, respectively). The incidence and the degree of progression of ophthalmopathy in patients who already had exophthalmos before treatment were similar in the medically, surgically, and 131I-treated groups (19.2%, 19.8%, and 22.7%, respectively). Most of the progression occurred in the posttreatment euthyroid stage. The incidence of improvement of ophthalmopathy was also similar (14.1%, 12.6%, and 12.3% in the medically, surgically, and 131I-treated patients).

Conclusion: In conclusion, we found no influence of type of therapy for thyrotoxicosis on the clinical course of Graves' ophthalmopathy in this retrospective study of 537 patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diplopia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Graves Disease / physiopathology
  • Graves Disease / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vision Disorders / epidemiology
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology*


  • Iodine Radioisotopes