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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

  • high tpo and high antibodys?

    Aug. 21, 2017, 6:30 p.m.

    hi liz, isnt it weird i have graves and now my husband shows up with this?almost sounds like the Bush's.lol

  • high tpo and high antibodys?

    Aug. 21, 2017, 10:20 a.m.

    Thyroglobulin antibody could be Hashimotos or thyroid cancer.Thyroid peroxidase autoimmune or thyroiditis or...

  • high tpo and high antibodys?

    Aug. 21, 2017, 8:55 a.m.

    Hello everybody, admins delete this if not approbiate.I have a question.My hubby has been taking levo for...

  • After a long absence, back again!

    Aug. 19, 2017, 8:28 p.m.

    Hi emmtee, My doctor said that on one side there was very little of the thyroid left and what was there was...

  • After a long absence, back again!

    Aug. 19, 2017, 7:47 p.m.

    I'm glad you're doing well after your surgery. I've always wondered what happened to the thyroid after RAI....

  • After a long absence, back again!

    Aug. 19, 2017, 7:27 a.m.

    Hi everybody, TT is all done and I seem to be back to my old self, well aside from the rough gobs of glue on...

  • After a long absence, back again!

    Aug. 18, 2017, 10:35 a.m.

    Good luck! I'll be sending good thoughts your way on the 16th. All of you “old timers” were so...

  • Blast from the past

    Aug. 12, 2017, 5:34 p.m.

    Oh another thing, I too had RAI and my synthoird dose only changed 3 times in 7 years. The changes occured in...

  • Blast from the past

    Aug. 12, 2017, 5:30 p.m.

    I have found that diet plays a big part in how my eyes are from day to day and how I actually feel. ( I feel...

  • Eyelid retraction correction surgery

    Aug. 11, 2017, 3:04 p.m.

    Hi, I would like to get your blog link regarding your upper eyelid retraction surgery. I'm seriously...

  • Eyelid surgery a breeze

    Aug. 11, 2017, 3 p.m.

    I'm considering having my upper eyelid retraction corrected. I've gone to several oculoplastics and gotten...

  • Save the Dates: Patient Events in Baltimore (Oct. 8) and Boston (Oct. 14)!

    Aug. 10, 2017, 3:44 p.m.

    Save the dates - the GDATF is headed to the East Coast this fall to host two patient education events!...

  • After a long absence, back again!

    Aug. 9, 2017, 3:38 a.m.

    There are internal dissolvable sutures, the glue only holds together the superficial skin. I had glue, no...

  • After a long absence, back again!

    Aug. 8, 2017, 11:36 p.m.

    I'm glad you were able to meet with your surgeon. It sounds like you're getting good care. My surgeon used...

  • After a long absence, back again!

    Aug. 6, 2017, 2:06 p.m.

    Sending good thoughts and good wishes to you, Barbra - just like you have sent to so many of us here on the...

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