Graves’ Orbitopathy (GO), also known as thyroid eye disease (TED), is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder that affects the orbit of the eye. Many patients have distressing symptoms, including staring or bulging eyes, pain, discomfort, grittiness, sensitivity to light, double or blurred vision, and disfigurement, and some develop complications that threaten their sight. Not all patients have sight-threatening complications, but having an altered appearance can be very distressing. People suffering with GO often have a poor quality of life; it can have a long-term psychological and social effect on their well-being, and some patients become reclusive. The disease affects mainly women, who are often young or middle-aged and at the peak of their career when the disease strikes. It affects hundreds of thousands of people in the world every year.
GO is mainly seen in patients with an over-active thyroid (hyperthyroidism) caused by Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland, which takes its name from an Irish physician, Robert James Graves, who described the disease in 1835.
About one third of people with Graves’ disease develop eye problems. There is a strong association between smoking and GO and smokers suffer more severely than non-smokers.