Exophthalmos overview

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Exophthalmos Microchapters


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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor-In-Chief: John Fani Srour, M.D.


Exophthalmos is a bulging of the eye anteriorly out of the orbit. Some sources define exophthalmos as a protrusion of the globe greater than 18 mm and proptosis as a protusion equal to or less than 18 mm. (Epstein et al, 2003). Others define "exophthalmos" as protusion secondary to endocrine dysfunction and "proptosis" as any non-endocrine-mediated protusion[1] [2].

Exophthalmos can be either bilateral (as is often seen in Grave's Disease) or unilateral (as is often seen in an orbital tumor). Measurement of the degree of exophthalmos is performed using an exophthalmometer. Complete or partial dislocation from the orbit is also possible from trauma or swelling of surrounding tissue resulting from trauma.

In the case of Graves Disease, the displacement of the eye is due to abnormal connective tissue deposition in the orbit and extraocular muscles which can be visualized by CT or MRI.[3]


  1. Sailer, Christian, Wasner, Susanne. Differential Diagnosis Pocket. Hermosa Beach, CA: Borm Bruckmeir Publishing LLC, 2002:77 ISBN 1591032016
  2. Kahan, Scott, Smith, Ellen G. In A Page: Signs and Symptoms. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2004:68 ISBN 140510368X
  3. Owen Epstein, David Perkin, John Cookson, David P de Bono (2003). Clinical examination (3rd edition ed.). St. Louis: Mosby. ISBN 0-7234-3229-5. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)