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  • Updated 04.18.2022
  • Released 10.12.2000
  • Expires For CME 04.18.2025

Orbital disease in neuro-ophthalmology



Orbital pathology can result in neuro-ophthalmic manifestations, such as optic neuropathy and ocular misalignment, leading to vision loss and diplopia. Among the common orbital conditions are thyroid-related orbitopathy, orbital tumors, and orbital inflammatory syndromes. Other orbitopathies include IgG-4-related disease and orbital infections, such as cellulitis.

Key points

• History taking and clinical examination of the orbit are important parts of the evaluation.

• Early detection may prevent or reduce visual dysfunction.

• Orbital pathology may lead to restrictive ocular movements manifesting as diplopia.

• Orbital pathology can easily be missed if the orbit is not considered as a site of pathology.

• Proptosis is the hallmark of orbital pathology, but it is not always present. To detect it, one could use a Hertel exophthalmometer and check for increased resistance to retropulsion.

• The most common orbital condition is thyroid-related orbitopathy.

Historical note and terminology

Orbital pathology can be categorized according to disease mechanism:

1. Inflammation

a. Thyroid-related orbitopathy
b. Orbital inflammatory syndrome (specific or idiopathic)

2. Infection (cellulitis)
3. Tumor

a. Benign
b. Malignant

4. Vasculopathy
5. Anomaly

This chapter will cover thyroid-related orbitopathy, idiopathic orbital inflammatory syndrome, malignant orbital tumors, and orbital cellulitis.

The most common orbital disease is thyroid-related orbitopathy, accounting for 47% of orbital disease, followed by lymphoproliferative disorders in 10.2% (63). The third most common is orbital inflammatory syndrome, accounting for 4.7% to 6.3% (86).

Thyroid-related orbitopathy is also called Graves orbitopathy. The historical background behind naming the disease “Graves” goes back to 1835 when the Irish physician Robert James Graves described a patient with goiter and proptosis. The German physician Karl von Basedow reported the same group of symptoms independently in 1840. Other names for the same disease are Parry disease, Begbie disease, Flajani disease, and Marsh disease. These names are derived from physicians in the early 1800s. But in the 12th century, a Persian physician named Sayyid Ismail Al-Jurani had noted the association between goiter and proptosis, reporting it in his “Thesaurus of the Shah Khwarazm” (47).

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