Graves' ophthalmopathy: current concepts regarding pathogenesis and management

Endocr Rev. 1993 Dec;14(6):747-93. doi: 10.1210/edrv-14-6-747.


Referring to the hyperadrenergic theory on the pathogenesis of Graves' ophthalmopathy, a 1934 JAMA editorial (513) stated "the mechanism of exophthalmos is well understood though the knowledge would seem to be poorly disseminated." Several subsequent theories on pathogenesis, stated equally emphatically, have experienced a similar fate to that prompting this remark, but not before negatively impacting upon the management of patients suffering from this disorder. Thus, it is with an element of caution that we conclude that the sequence of events contributing to the pathogenesis of Graves' ophthalmopathy has become progressively more lucid, due to the assiduous efforts of many investigators in this field. Demonstration of an inextricable link between the eye and the thyroid in Graves' ophthalmopathy seems limited only by our ability to detect subtle involvement of one or the other of these two organs in exceptional cases, although not all authors share this viewpoint (514). The factors modulating the degree of expression of the thyroid component, such as concurrent lymphocytic thyroiditis or qualitative differences in TRAb seem more tangible than those affecting the clinical expression of eye involvement. Environmental factors such as smoking are associated, to a degree that matches or surpasses that known for genetic predisposition to this disorder. Local anatomy, including such factors as vulnerability to obstruction of venous drainage, must play a role as evidenced by asymmetric eye involvement and rapid relief of inflammatory changes after orbital decompression surgery. The transition from palliative to curative measures in Graves' ophthalmopathy will require further advances in our understanding of the putative shared thyroid-eye antigens, demonstration that these antigens are etiologically important and concomitant advances in antigen-specific immune therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eye Diseases / classification
  • Eye Diseases / diagnosis
  • Eye Diseases / epidemiology
  • Eye Diseases / etiology*
  • Eye Diseases / immunology
  • Eye Diseases / therapy*
  • Female
  • Graves Disease / complications*
  • Graves Disease / immunology
  • Humans
  • Male