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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

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 18, 2021, 4:39 p.m.

    (Edited) Hello - Thanks for being flexible on the username to help us avoid confusion with our other admin! I...

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 17, 2021, 1:57 p.m.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31482765/ 2019 study, another perspective on ATD treatment. Note especially...

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 17, 2021, 12:32 p.m.

    Hi Kimberly—thanks for your reply June 11. Per your advice I’ll update my screen name, ellenb. Do I...

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 11, 2021, 3:52 p.m.

    Hello and welcome! First, do you mind if we work with you to update your screen name to avoid confusion with...

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 10, 2021, 6:39 p.m.

    Gianna— Hi, I'm trying to decide on treatment for Graves. Can you tell me— how was your...

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 6, 2021, 10:10 a.m.

    Hi Sue, and hello everyone! This is my first ever post and I'm happy to be here! I was diagnosed with Grave's...

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 6, 2021, 8:48 a.m.

    Thanks for the links, Kimberly….. I'll go check them out right now. Actually I don't have celiac...

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 4, 2021, 4:59 p.m.

    Great to see you! I've not seen research on gluten intolerance and absorption, but there *have* been studies...

  • METHIMAZOLE long term??

    June 4, 2021, 11:47 a.m.

    Hi Conky, I have been on methimazole long term. I was diagnosed in 2013 and in 2019 my trabs was finally...

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 4, 2021, 9:08 a.m.

    Wow - thank you for that info. I really know very little about mast cells and histamine but it's definitely...

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 4, 2021, 4:03 a.m.

    This makes sense. Mast cells, which secrete histamine, affect T3 and gluten intolerance also has a histamine...

  • What do you think of this theory?

    June 3, 2021, 4:57 p.m.

    Been a looooooong time since I posted…. so grateful Kimberly is still here keeping this board alive!...

  • New TED diagnosis

    June 1, 2021, 6:45 p.m.

    Hello - I've not heard of patients using TEPEZZA (TM) *just* for swelling, but you might also check out our...

  • How do I support and rebuilt with my partner after years of Graves?

    June 1, 2021, 6:41 p.m.

    Hello and welcome - hopefully, others will chime in here, and you might also check out our Facebook group,...

  • Thyroid and soy

    June 1, 2021, 6:36 p.m.

    Hello and welcome - I think the concern with soy is more about its impact on absorption when you take your...

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