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

  • Post RAI levels and exercise questions

    April 18, 2014, 9:59 a.m.

    To answer your first question about what to do if you go hyper again, just like Kimberly said you can go for...

  • Post RAI levels and exercise questions

    April 18, 2014, 5:23 a.m.

    We also lose muscle mass when we're hypER, so as long as your levels are normal or even slightly hypO now,...

  • Hypo after RAI

    April 17, 2014, 6:29 p.m.

    Hello, I have had to go through the RAI procedure twice now for my Graves and I can say I had the exact same...

  • Graves' Disease Outreach Event at UCLA Stein Eye Center June 14th

    April 17, 2014, 3:17 p.m.

    Hi all - The University of California Los Angeles Jules Stein Eye Center is hosting a Graves' Disease...

  • Hypo after RAI

    April 17, 2014, 3:11 p.m.

    Hello - Hopefully others will chime in here, but if you start experiencing other symptoms of hypo before your...

  • YAY! It is working!

    April 17, 2014, 8:48 a.m.

    Good for you, Amy! I'm so glad to hear that you are feeling better.

  • Hypo after RAI

    April 17, 2014, 8:47 a.m.

    Hi all, It has been about three weeks since my RAI procedure and I'm only now feeling really moody and...

  • What is your life like after RAI ?

    April 17, 2014, 8:45 a.m.

    Hi Lilly, I had my RAI procedure about three weeks ago. Taking the RAI pill itself and going through...

  • YAY! It is working!

    April 16, 2014, 8:46 p.m.

    Thank you! I will make sure.

  • YAY! It is working!

    April 16, 2014, 1:36 p.m.

    Wow, great news - definitely keep us posted! And when you go in for that first set of labs, make sure that...

  • Meds interfering with Levothyroxine

    April 16, 2014, 1:34 p.m.

    Thanks for clarifying - hoping that you can get *off* this rollercoaster soon!

  • YAY! It is working!

    April 16, 2014, 12:54 p.m.

    Hi all! I had my RAI almost 3 weeks ago. I haven't gone in for my bloodwork yet, but I feel much better. The...

  • Meds interfering with Levothyroxine

    April 15, 2014, 5:41 p.m.

    Kimberly SueAndHerZoo Since that check up I lowered my dose a slight bit more and was very eager to hear...

  • Post RAI levels and exercise questions

    April 15, 2014, 4:13 p.m.

    Hello and welcome! The primary concern with exercise is to avoid strenuous activity while hyperthyroid....

  • Meds interfering with Levothyroxine

    April 15, 2014, 4:04 p.m.

    SueAndHerZoo Since that check up I lowered my dose a slight bit more and was very eager to hear about my...

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