The natural course of Graves' orbitopathy (GO) has been poorly documented. The aim of this review is to provide current knowledge regarding the natural course of mild GO, trying to address the issue of whether and to what extent it constitutes a chronic remitting or transient disease.
We systematically searched PubMed for English language publications until August 2016 under the following terms: "Graves' orbitopathy" OR "Graves' ophthalmopathy" OR "thyroid eye disease" AND "natural course" OR "natural history".
Few studies have investigated the course of mild orbital disease in patients with GO. Large controlled trials are lacking and data can be extracted mainly from small retrospective and some prospective studies, after excluding patients who had received radioiodine for thyrotoxicosis or surgical treatment for GO. In general, more than half of GO patients may show spontaneous improvement in their clinical features, whereas no safe conclusions can be drawn with regard to complete resolution, with percentages ranging from 6 to 58 %.
The question whether mild GO is a remitting, albeit chronic disease, or even a transient event in the course of Graves' disease, remains currently unanswered.
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