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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

  • Puzzling Symptoms?

    Oct. 20, 2014, 11:12 a.m.

    connypie Hello Everybody, i went for my first vision therapy.but before i paid all that money out of...

  • Graves, Shingles and now this?

    Oct. 20, 2014, 11:03 a.m.

    Oh, no…sorry to hear about this latest development. Wishing you all the best!

  • Puzzling Symptoms?

    Oct. 20, 2014, 10 a.m.

    Hi Connypie, I'm glad your new glasses are helping you. I need new one's too but I have to save up some more...

  • Graves, Shingles and now this?

    Oct. 20, 2014, 9:48 a.m.

    Hey Connypie, You're right! I noticed the other day that if I wait too long to take the Ibuprofen the pain...

  • Puzzling Symptoms?

    Oct. 20, 2014, 8:15 a.m.

    Hello Everybody, i went for my first vision therapy.but before i paid all that money out of pocket,i spoke to...

  • Graves, Shingles and now this?

    Oct. 20, 2014, 7:51 a.m.

    Hi Barbra, yeah isnt life grand!im going trough a bad spell right now too.i hope youre feeling better soon.if...

  • Hyperthyroidism/Graves Disease

    Oct. 19, 2014, 8:40 a.m.

    So glad you found this forum. It has been quite helpful for me. There is a string of posts going by several...

  • Graves, Shingles and now this?

    Oct. 18, 2014, 7:31 a.m.

    Hi Everyone, Quick recap: diagnosed with Graves in 2013, had RAI in July that year, started Levo in August...

  • If You Log In And See the Forum Guidelines, Scroll Down to Accept

    Oct. 17, 2014, 10:08 a.m.

    Hi all - the GDATF forum is set to make sure that users periodically review and accept the forum's...

  • Puzzling Symptoms?

    Oct. 17, 2014, 9:55 a.m.

    Missing message from conniepie (posted at her request): hey shirley,i already ordered the glasses,i too hope...

  • Puzzling Symptoms?

    Oct. 17, 2014, 9:54 a.m.

    Hello - There were some *very* old studies that found a link around 20 years ago, but I don't see this in the...

  • Anastrozole (Arimidex) affecting TSH level

    Oct. 17, 2014, 9:47 a.m.

    Hello - The prescribing info says that no affect on TSH was found at 5-10 mg doses, but certainly every...

  • Anastrozole (Arimidex) affecting TSH level

    Oct. 17, 2014, 9:18 a.m.

    The best person to ask is a pharmacist. The docs have pretty much turned over patient education about...

  • Puzzling Symptoms?

    Oct. 16, 2014, 7:59 p.m.

    Hi i just found something interesting.My cancer drug Tamoxifen can affect thyroid labwork.did anybody know...

  • Puzzling Symptoms?

    Oct. 16, 2014, 5:30 p.m.

    hi guys,yeah flora i get the same pains and muscle aches.told my primary about my weak and hurting wrists.its...

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