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Subconjunctival orbital fat prolapse and thyroid associated orbitopathy: a clinical association

Authors Chatzistefanou KI, Samara C, Asproudis I, Brouzas D, Moschos MM, Tsianta E, Piaditis G

Received 4 August 2016

Accepted for publication 22 September 2016

Published 13 February 2017 Volume 2017:12 Pages 359—366

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S118955

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker


Klio I Chatzistefanou,1 Christianna Samara,2 Ioannis Asproudis,3 Dimitrios Brouzas,1 Marilita M Moschos,1 Elisabeth Tsianta,1 George Piaditis4

1First Department of Ophthalmology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Medical School, Athens, Greece; 2Department of Radiology and Endocrinology, 3Department of Ophthalmology, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece; 4Athens General Hospital “G. Gennimatas”, Athens, Greece

Background: Thyroid associated orbitopathy (TAO) comprises a spectrum of well-recognized clinical signs including exophthalmos, eyelid retraction, soft tissue swelling, ocular misalignment, keratopathy as well as a number of less common manifestations. Subconjunctival fat prolapse is a rare clinical condition occurring typically spontaneously in elderly patients with a mean age of 65–72 years. We describe subconjunctival prolapse of orbital fat as an uncommon clinical association of TAO.
Materials and methods: Observational study of six patients presenting with a subconjunctival protrusion under the lateral canthus in a series of 198 consecutive cases with TAO examined at a tertiary care referral center.
Results: A superotemporally located yellowish, very soft, freely mobile subconjunctival protrusion developed unilaterally in two and bilaterally in four patients with TAO (incidence 3.03%). It was one of the presenting manifestations of TAO in four of ten eyes studied and incited the diagnostic work-up for TAO in two of six patients in this series. Magnetic resonance imaging of the orbit indicated fat density in continuity with intraorbital fat in the area of protrusion. A male to female preponderance of 4:2 and an advanced mean age at onset of TAO is noteworthy for these six patients compared to the pool of 192 patients (64.8 versus 51.8 years, respectively, P=0.003) not bearing this sign.
Conclusion: Subconjunctival orbital fat prolapse, a clinically impressive age-related ocular lesion, may occasionally predominate amid other clinical manifestations of TAO. It is a nonspecific sign developing most commonly among patients with a relatively advanced age at presentation. Awareness of this association may alert to the diagnosis of thyroid orbitopathy and reassure the patient and physician as to the benign character of the lesion.

Keywords: subconjunctival orbital fat prolapse, elderly, age-related, Graves ophthalmopathy, thyroid associated orbitopathy, autoimmune thyroidopathy


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