Graves' Disease

Grave's Ophthalmopathy

What is Grave's ophthalmopathy?

Grave's ophthalmopathy (GO) occurs when cells from the immune system attack the muscles and other tissues around the eyes. The result is inflammation and a buildup in tissue and fat behind the eye socket, causing the eyeballs to bulge. In rare cases, inflammation is severe enough to compress the optic nerve that leads to the eye, causing vision loss.

Other symptoms of Grave's ophthalmopathy include

  • dry, irritated eyes
  • puffy eyelids
  • double vision
  • light sensitivity
  • pressure or pain in the eyes
  • trouble moving the eyes

About 25 percent of people with Grave's disease develop Grave's ophthalmopathy, which is usually of mild to moderate severity. This eye disorder usually lasts 1 to 2 years and often improves on its own. Grave's ophthalmopathy can occur before, at the same time as, or after other symptoms of hyperthyroidism develop and may even occur in people whose thyroid function is normal. Grave's ophthalmopathy is severe in 3 to 5 percent of people who have the disorder, and smoking makes Grave's ophthalmopathy worse.

National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service. Grave's Disease

Quick GuideHyperthyroidism Symptoms and Treatment

Hyperthyroidism Symptoms and Treatment

Graves' disease facts*

*Graves' disease facts Medically Edited by: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

  • Graves' disease is a thyroid condition that results from abnormal stimulation of the thyroid gland by a material in the blood referred to as thyroid stimulating immunoglobins (TSIs) that bind to and activate thyrotropin receptors.
  • Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the US.
  • The cause of Graves' disease is thought to be related to many factors including genes, gender, stress, pregnancy, and possibly infections.
  • Symptoms of Graves' disease include goiter, problems conceiving a child, lighter menstrual flow and less frequent periods, weight loss, frequent bowel movements, heart palpitations, thinning of hair, brittle hair, hand tremors, problems sleeping, heat insensitivity, increased sweating, eye changes (exophthalmos), and reddening and thickening of the skin on the shins and top of the feet (pretibial myxedema).
  • Graves' disease affects both men and women; however, women are affected about 8- 10 times more often than men.
  • Risk factors for Graves' disease are associated with other autoimmune diseases such as vitiligo, rheumatoid arthritis, Addison's disease, type 1 diabetes, pernicious anemia, and lupus.
  • Tests to diagnose Graves' disease include thyroid function tests, radioactive iodine uptake tests, and tests to detect TSI's.
  • Treatments for Graves' disease include radioactive iodine, antithyroid medications such as methimazole (Tapazole) and propylthiouracil (PTU), andbeta blockers; in some patients, surgery is done.
  • Untreated Graves' disease can lead to thyrotoxicosis and its severe form, thyroid storm, heart problems, weak and brittle bones, and death.
  • Poorly treated Graves' disease during pregnancy can cause problems for the woman such as preterm birth, miscarriage, heart failure, preeclampsia, and placental abruption.
  • Poorly treated Graves' disease can cause health problems for a fetus or baby such as preterm birth, low birth weight, thyroid problems, and still birth.
Picture of symptoms of graves disease
Picture of symptoms of Graves' disease

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