Treating severe Graves' ophthalmopathy

Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997 Oct;11(3):521-36. doi: 10.1016/s0950-351x(97)80738-0.


Most patients with Graves' disease have some evidence of ocular involvement, but this is commonly mild, requiring only local measures. A minority of patients (3-5%) have severe Graves' ophthalmopathy, for which the three main treatment procedures are represented by high-dose glucocorticoids, orbital radiotherapy and orbital decompression. Favourable results with medical treatment have been reported in approximately 60% of patients, with particular regard to inflammatory changes, newly developed eye muscle dysfunction and optic neuropathy. Orbital decompression is indicated in severe eye disease not responsive to glucocorticoids and/or irradiation, particularly in the presence of marked proptosis and optic neuropathy. Not conclusive or unsatisfactory results have been obtained with other medical treatment procedures, including immunosuppressive drugs, intravenous immunoglobulins and plasmapheresis. Recently favourable responses have been reported with somatostatin analogues. Rehabilitative surgery involving either the eye muscles or the eyelids is not infrequently required after medical treatment or decompression. Permanent control of thyroid hyperfunction by radioiodine or thyroidectomy is advisable when severe ophthalmopathy is present. Exacerbation of ophthalmopathy following radioiodine may occur but can be prevented by concomitant administration of glucocorticoids. Smoking deleteriously influences the course of ophthalmopathy and its response to treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Graves Disease / physiopathology*
  • Graves Disease / radiotherapy
  • Graves Disease / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Plasmapheresis
  • Somatostatin / analogs & derivatives


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Somatostatin