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Long-term follow-up of seven patients with ophthalmopathy not associated with thyroid autoimmunity: heterogeneity of autoimmune ophthalmopathy

Authors McCorquodale T, Lahooti H, Gopinath B, Wall JR

Received 9 February 2012

Accepted for publication 8 March 2012

Published 12 July 2012 Volume 2012:6 Pages 1063—1071


Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Tom McCorquodale,1 Hooshang Lahooti,1 Bamini Gopinath,2 Jack R Wall1

1Department of Medicine, Nepean Clinical School, the University of Sydney, Penrith, NSW, Australia; 2Centre for Vision Research, the University of Sydney, Westmead Hospital, Westmead, NSW, Australia

Background: Ophthalmopathy is the most common extrathyroidal manifestation of Graves' disease. However, in approximately 5% of cases this autoimmune eye disorder occurs in the apparent absence of Graves' hyperthyroidism: the so-called euthyroid Graves' disease (EGD).
Methods: Seven patients with EGD were followed for evidence of thyroid and orbital autoimmunity, for up to 10 years. Calsequestrin and collagen XIII antibodies were measured by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and TSH-receptor (TSH-r) antibodies were measured as TSH-r-binding antibody (TRAb) and thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI). Eye signs were characterized and quantified as clinical activity score (CAS), NOSPECS classes, Nunery types 1 and 2, and margin-reflex distance (MRD).
Results: Calsequestrin antibodies were detected on at least one occasion in three of the seven patients and collagen XIII antibodies were detected one or more times in five patients. In one patient with isolated congestive ophthalmopathy who was studied intensely, collagen XIII antibodies were initially positive and then became negative as the eye disease stabilized, while antibodies targeting calsequestrin were always negative. TRAb was not detected in any patient, but TSI was detected in three patients on one occasion each. Ultrasound abnormalities were found in four of the six patients for whom this was carried out, but there was no clear evidence for thyroiditis in any of these patients. For comparison, 13 patients were studied with typical Graves' ophthalmopathy. There were no significant differences compared to EGD in respect to the prevalence of positive calsequestrin or collagen XIII antibodies, but these patients included more smokers (eight out of 13 versus none out of seven).
Conclusions: Earlier studies suggesting that patients with EGD eventually develop thyroid dysfunction have not been confirmed here, although follow-up continues, and the possibility that such patients have had thyroid autoimmunity in the past, or that they will develop it in the future cannot be excluded. Overall, it is likely that the ophthalmopathy associated with Graves' hyperthyroidism is the same disease as that observed in patients – such as those reported here – in whom thyroid dysfunction and thyroid autoimmunity are not present during the period of follow-up. The role of autoimmunity against the TSH-r in euthyroid patients with ophthalmopathy has not been proven and the significance of the orbital antibodies is unclear.

Keywords: ophthalmopathy, thyroid eye disease, collagen XIII, calsequestrin, euthyroid Graves' disease

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