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Management of Graves' ophthalmopathy: reality and perspectives.

Graves' ophthalmopathy is an debilitating disease impairing the quality of life of affected individuals. Despite recent progress in the understanding of its pathogenesis, treatment is often not satisfactory. In mild cases, local therapeutic measures (artificial tears and ointments, sunglasses, nocturnal taping of the eyes, prisms) can control symptoms and signs. In severe forms of the disease (3-5%), aggressive measures are required. If the disease is active, high-dose glucocorticoids and/or orbital radiotherapy, or orbital decompression represent the mainstay of treatment. If the disease is severe but inactive, orbital decompression is preferred. Novel treatments such as somatostatin analogs or intravenous immunoglobulins are under evaluation. Rehabilitative (extraocular muscle or eyelid) surgery is often needed after treatment and inactivation of eye disease. Correction of both hyper- and hypothyroidism is crucial for the ophthalmopathy. Antithyroid drugs and thyroidectomy do not influence the course of the ophthalmopathy, whereas radioiodine treatment may cause the progression of preexisting ophthalmopathy, especially in smokers. The exacerbation, however, is prevented by glucocorticoids. In addition, thyroid ablation may prove beneficial for the ophthalmopathy in view of the pathogenetic model relating eye disease to autoimmune reactions directed against antigens shared by the thyroid and the orbit.

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