The ocular emergencies encountered in Graves' ophthalmopathy, namely optic neuropathy, corneal ulceration, subluxation of the globe, and severe periorbital oedema with chemosis have been discussed. Evaluation of the clinical signs and symptoms of these conditions, as well as their treatment, have been outlined. Of particular concern is the complaint of 'blurry vision' that may indicate the presence of optic neuropathy. Early recognition of this entity, with prompt referral to an ophthalmologist is important because there is an inverse relationship between duration of visual loss and efficacy of treatment. The ophthalmological evaluation of a patient with optic neuropathy may demonstrate decreased visual acuity, impaired colour perception, or an afferent pupillary defect. In addition, a visual field examination may be a helpful adjunctive test. Available therapy for optic neuropathy includes high-dose corticosteroids, supervoltage X-irradiation and orbital decompressive surgery. We have reviewed the literature concerning these modalities and outlined our approach to the treatment of optic neuropathy. In general, we recommend orbital decompression at an early stage for this condition. Another worrisome complaint is of 'eye pain'. In this case, distinction must be made between the causes that include ocular inflammation, corneal keratitis and corneal ulceration. The corneal ulceration is characterized by extreme eye pain and erythema, and may require surgical intervention. Severe ocular inflammation may respond well to a course of high-dose steroids. A combination of these ocular emergencies in a patient with Graves' ophthalmopathy necessitates careful consideration of the available treatment options.
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