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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

  • poor eye muscle control,part of graves?

    Sept. 21, 2014, 12:02 a.m.

    Probably is TED, and probably you are in the active phase, your eyes are changing. I am speaking from my own...

  • poor eye muscle control,part of graves?

    Sept. 20, 2014, 7:12 p.m.

    hi everybodyi have a question.is poor eye muscle control a part of graves eye disease?diagnosed with graves...

  • How about itchy eyelids?

    Sept. 20, 2014, 6:51 a.m.

    Thank you, Christina! Your post is the final piece to this puzzle I needed! I have been working with both...

  • Loss of taste with use of Methimazole

    Sept. 19, 2014, 7:06 p.m.

    I lost my sense of taste while on methimazole too. I only took the meds for about 2 or 3 months before...

  • How about itchy eyelids?

    Sept. 19, 2014, 6:51 p.m.

    Sue, I am one who has experienced this as part of my puffy eye problem. The itching (and dryness) usually...

  • TED makeup tips?

    Sept. 19, 2014, 2:43 p.m.

    Thanks for the warm welcome! Alas, curly hair and bangs aren't a happy match for me. I do believe my glasses...

  • Hi I`m a newbie and would really appreciate some advice.

    Sept. 19, 2014, 4:50 a.m.

    Thanks I`ll keep a close watch on my symptoms. The postie turned up with my letter today, I`m booked into...

  • TED makeup tips?

    Sept. 18, 2014, 10:32 p.m.

    Hi Janet, Might not be helpful, or what you're looking for, but I gave up on the eye makeup, too. The eye...

  • Graves' and TED - Status update

    Sept. 18, 2014, 4:57 p.m.

    Hi all, Thank you for your replies and comments. I spoke too soon on the muscle cramps! Back with a vengeance...

  • TED makeup tips?

    Sept. 18, 2014, 4:42 p.m.

    Hi Janetf, Welcome to the Forum. This a great resource for information and advice from fellow sufferers. As...

  • Hi I`m a newbie and would really appreciate some advice.

    Sept. 18, 2014, 4:24 p.m.

    Hello - In the U.S., T4 testing is not that expensive (and *everything* here is expensive!) so hopefully,...

  • Loss of taste with use of Methimazole

    Sept. 18, 2014, 4:20 p.m.

    Hello - It's the second link in this thread (which is located in the announcements section at the top of the...

  • TED makeup tips?

    Sept. 18, 2014, 4:17 p.m.

    Hello and welcome! Hopefully, others here will chime in with their suggestions. I actually went the complete...

  • I lower my Levo and my TSH drops even MORE!

    Sept. 18, 2014, 3:36 p.m.

    Please take comfort in my discomfort It is good to know we aren't alone or crazy. I wouldn't change my...

  • Trying to find the sweet spot after TT

    Sept. 18, 2014, 3:27 p.m.

    Thanks Kimberly. I believe that is what my endo is trying to tell me. I thought I may have heard that before,...

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