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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

  • 20 years post RAI, suddenly hyper on same dose Syn

    April 8, 2021, 12:26 p.m.

    Hello and welcome - as you noted, patients do often need tweaks in dosage as they age. Another thought is...

  • Graves Disease and Radioactive Iodine Treatment

    April 7, 2021, 1:36 p.m.

    That's Great Samantha. Good Luck with school!

  • New TED diagnosis

    April 7, 2021, 1:22 p.m.

    Are they treating your thyroid? TED doesn't just happen by itself. It's usually related to issues such as...

  • 20 years post RAI, suddenly hyper on same dose Syn

    April 7, 2021, 1:18 p.m.

    Graves diagnosis 1997, age 37, tx RAI. After adjustment period, Synthroid level stable with brief periods of...

  • New TED diagnosis

    April 1, 2021, 10:48 a.m.

    Just a note that this is very individual. The GDATF hosted a recent webinar on long-term use of antithyroid...

  • New TED diagnosis

    March 31, 2021, 1:43 p.m.

    You still have a thyroid which could at any time randomly chug out more hormone, or less, overriding the...

  • Graves and glucose

    March 31, 2021, 2:20 a.m.

    Hi Kimberly, When I was first diagnosed with hyperthyroidism my fasting glucose was a bit on the high side...

  • New TED diagnosis

    March 30, 2021, 8:28 p.m.

    Thank you so much for your response. I have had a recent CT scan of the orbits which found increased orbital...

  • Graves and glucose

    March 23, 2021, 3:20 p.m.

    Hello and welcome - Graves' disease (and all that comes with it) is definitely overwhelming. The key for now...

  • TED not getting better

    March 21, 2021, 9:36 a.m.

    Thank you all for the advice and kind words. A doctor did mention Tepezza to me, however they didn't think I...

  • TED not getting better

    March 21, 2021, 3:48 a.m.

    Tepezza, which is given as a series of infusions, does work. I have a friend whose TED course has been very...

  • Graves and glucose

    March 20, 2021, 9:40 a.m.

    Hi everyone, I’m new here. To give you some quick background - I was diagnosed with Graves following 2...

  • New TED diagnosis

    March 20, 2021, 4:03 a.m.

    You will need to be followed by an oculoplastic surgeon familiar with Graves. At each visit, pressures should...

  • New TED diagnosis

    March 19, 2021, 7:34 p.m.

    Hello and welcome - hopefully, you will get some responses here, but you might also check out our Facebook...

  • New TED diagnosis

    March 17, 2021, 1:45 p.m.

    Recently diagnosed with early stages of TED. Doctor advised Selenium, low sodium diet, sleeping head...

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