Hold control (command on a Mac) and press the + key as many times as necessary to increase the font size.
Hold control (command on a Mac) and press the - key to reduce the font size. - hide

About Graves' Disease



Graves’ disease often does not get the attention needed from medical professionals, perhaps because it is rarely fatal. However, Graves' must be treated to avoid complications such as bone/muscle wasting, heart problems, and thyroid storm – a very serious, life-threatening event.  The condition is serious for the millions of individuals who at times, are having problems with their thyroid and experience extreme highs and lows physically and emotionally. The impact on their personalities as they struggle with Graves’ can severely strain their relationship with family and friends.

Graves' disease is an autoimmune disease

Diseases of the immune system have a genetic predisposition. In a normal body, the immune system defends itself against germs and viruses. Other examples of autoimmune disease include Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosis, psoriasis, and celiac disease.  Autoimmune diseases can affect different parts of the body. 

Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism

Graves’ disease, also known as toxic diffuse goiter, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism - a disorder that occurs when the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormone than the body needs.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck below the larynx, or voice box. The thyroid gland makes two thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid hormones affect metabolism, brain development, breathing, heart and nervous system functions, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles, weight, cholesterol levels, and emotional & cognitive functions.

Thyroid hormone production is regulated by another hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is made by the pituitary gland located in the brain.

In Graves’ disease, the immune system makes antibodies called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) that attach to thyroid cells. TSI mimics the action of TSH and stimulates the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone. Sometimes the antibodies can instead block thyroid hormone production, leading to a confusing clinical picture.

Eye and Skin Involvement

Patients with Graves’ disease may experience some level of eye involvement, requiring consultation with an experienced ophthalmologist.  Symptoms can include dry eyes, swelling, redness, eyelid retraction, and a “gritty” sensation.  Less common complications include bulging (proptosis), double vision, and compression of the optic nerve.  Symptoms typically progress and then stabilize over a period of 2-3 years.  For more serious complications, surgical options are available to restore eye function and appearance.

Very occasionally, Graves’ patients develop a lumpy reddish thickening of the skin in front of the shins known as pretibial myxedema.  This condition is usually diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist.

Graves' disease - Fast Facts

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides the following statistics:

  • Graves’ Disease affects approximately 2 to 3% of the population or almost 10 million people. The figure may be higher because some may have eye involvement but not diagnosed with thyroid problems.
  • Graves' is five to 10 times more common in women than men.
  • Graves' usually occurs in middle age, but also occurs in children, adolescents and the elderly.

Recent News

Recent Forum Posts

  • Hi - RAI update in UK.

    Nov. 27, 2014, 7:23 a.m.

    Thanks Barbra and Kimberly We seem to have the nausea figured out, it`s because I`m weaning myself too...

  • Puzzling Symptoms?

    Nov. 26, 2014, 7:28 p.m.

    Hi you all,Happy Thanksgiving!! Well ive been doing the vision therapy for a while now.the dr said there is...

  • Hello

    Nov. 25, 2014, 8:57 a.m.

    Hi swithed, When I was first diagnosed with Graves I was put on Methimazole and Propranolol and started not...

  • Hi - RAI update in UK.

    Nov. 25, 2014, 8:34 a.m.

    Hi joy123, I'm glad the RAI is showing results. I had mine in July last year. Just a thought: Could the...

  • Hello

    Nov. 21, 2014, 3:37 p.m.

    Hello - Insomnia is definitely a symptom of hyperthyroidism, and I've also heard stories from others who had...

  • Hi - RAI update in UK.

    Nov. 21, 2014, 3:25 p.m.

    joy123 I notice the T4 has raised since the last bloods - is this a good sign? I`ve been experiencing nausea...

  • Hello

    Nov. 21, 2014, 8:09 a.m.

    Hello swithed,ive had graves diagnosed for 20 years.had RAI 20 years ago.i well remember the insomnia.in the...

  • Hello

    Nov. 21, 2014, 7:43 a.m.

    Shirley is right. It is important to find a good surgeon who does a lot of thyroidectomies. Mine was great,...

  • Hello

    Nov. 20, 2014, 8:03 p.m.

    I had surgery. Cause it was the quickest. And it is. Major consideration is that you need a few weeks,...

  • Hello

    Nov. 20, 2014, 12:53 p.m.

    I had no luck with methimazole and eventually got tired of feeling bad, but it is certainly worth trying. If...

  • Update and swollen lymph nodes

    Nov. 20, 2014, 12:20 p.m.

    I had a total thyroidectomy after seven months of messing around with methimazole dosing. Best decision, easy...

  • Hi all! Been a long time! 2.5+ years!

    Nov. 19, 2014, 6:23 p.m.

    Thanks Kimberly. Saw Dr today, go back Fri for blood work. He says I have to take the methimazole twice a...

  • Hello

    Nov. 19, 2014, 6:08 p.m.

    Hi all, Another question - Some things I have read recently have me confused. Some say surgery is still a...

  • Hi all! Been a long time! 2.5+ years!

    Nov. 19, 2014, 9:17 a.m.

    Hello and welcome back! Hopefully, others will chime in on the sleep issues…I would definitely mention...

  • Hi - RAI update in UK.

    Nov. 19, 2014, 4:08 a.m.

    Thanks Kimberly Well looks like the RAI worked….my blood levels from yesterday are TSH 6.00 (0.35-...

Questions? Problems? Please contact us at info@ngdf.org or 877-643-3123.

GDATF on Facebook

Support the GDATF and become a member today!

© 2014 Graves' Disease & Thyroid Foundation