Sydney medics identify a test for "poppy eyes"
27 September 2006
A team of researchers from the University of Sydney has developed an antibody test to aid the diagnosis and management of patients with "poppy eyes", a debilitating symptom of Graves' disease.
Because ophthalmopathy occurs almost exclusively in patients with Graves' hyperthyroidism, it is possible to prevent the eye disease if those at risk could be identified before the onset of symptoms.
The research, which was led by Professor Jack Wall from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Medicine, focussed on the role of proteins called antibodies and certain white cells called T lymphocytes, which react against immune proteins, called antigens, in the eye muscle.
Grave's disease is a common thyroid disorder occurring in about one per cent of adult females and about 0.2 per cent of men. Patients with Graves' disease are prone to serious health, including in the most severe cases, sudden death due to cardiac arrhythmias.
About half of patients with Graves' disease develop "poppy eyes" or ophthalmopathy, along with pain, itchiness, grittiness, swelling, wateriness and double vision due to eye muscle damage. In some cases the eye muscles are so enlarged that the pressure on the optic nerve at the back of the orbit and lead to loss of vision or even blindness.
The team's recent research has demonstrated that antibodies against calsequestrin are specific and sensitive markers of early eye muscle damage in patients with Graves' disease
'As we understand more about the nature of this unusual and very special association between the eye disease and the thyroid, we can develop additional tests for patients with Graves' disease to identify abnormalities in the blood before the patient develops symptoms,' said Professor Wall.
Contact: Jake O'Shaughnessy
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