Graves' ophthalmopathy usually occurs in association with hyperthyroidism. Its occasional occurrence in the absence of thyroid disease suggests, however, that it may be a separate autoimmune disorder. While the evidence supporting an autoimmune pathogenesis is considerable for the ophthalmopathy, it is not so impressive as that for Graves' hyperthyroidism: orbital antibodies have not been convincingly demonstrated and autoantigens have not been identified. On the other hand, in patients with Graves' ophthalmopathy the orbital tissues and eye muscle membranes are infiltrated with lymphoid cells and show evidence of cell-mediated immune reactions. Although there is some evidence that binding of thyroid stimulating hormone fragments and thyroglobulin-antithyroglobulin immune complexes to eye muscle membranes may be important in the pathogenesis of the ophthalmopathy, this needs to be confirmed. The mechanism for the association of hyperthyroidism and ophthalmopathy is unknown, but the association likely reflects an influence of thyroid hormones on the immune system. In view of the autoimmune pathogenesis the logical treatment of Graves' ophthalmopathy appears to be immunosuppression.