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What is Graves' ophthalmopathy (GO)?

Graves ophthalmopathy (GO) occurs when cells from the immune system attack muscles and other tissues around the eyes. The result is inflammation and a buildup in tissue and fat behind the eye socket, causing the eyeballs to bulge. In rare cases, inflammation is severe enough to compress the optic nerve that leads to the eye, causing vision loss.

The other symptoms of GO include:

  • Dry, irritated eyes
  • Puffy eyelids
  • Double vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Pressure or pain in the eyes
  • Trouble moving the eyes


About 25 percent of people with Graves' disease develop GO, which is usually of mild to moderate severity. This eye disorder usually lasts one to two years and often improves on its own. GO can occur before, at the same time as, or after the other symptoms of hyperthyroidism develop and may even occur in people whose thyroid function is normal. GO is severe in 3-5 percent of people who have the disorder, and smoking makes GO worse.

This answer is based on source information from the National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.