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

  • Mood Swing

    May 17, 2019, 6:19 p.m.

    Hello - This video from Dr. Ira Lesser will hopefully shed some light behind the *why* of the mood issues....

  • Mood Swing

    May 15, 2019, 7:45 p.m.

    Hi all, I love being around people. I love to smile and being helpful as much as I could. However, often...

  • t3 and t4 in range, TSH low

    May 14, 2019, 4:32 p.m.

    I never had a normal TSH when I was on methimazole. When my T4 and T3 were in the normal range, it was always...

  • t3 and t4 in range, TSH low

    May 13, 2019, 12:03 p.m.

    There are lots of drugs beside anti-thyroid drugs that can cause hair loss. This article lists some of them,...

  • t3 and t4 in range, TSH low

    May 13, 2019, 8:41 a.m.

    Yes, I'm on methimazole. 5mg daily. I just hoped the hair loss would stop as my labs got more in range. The...

  • t3 and t4 in range, TSH low

    May 11, 2019, 6:06 a.m.

    Are you on methimazole? It is a drug and one of its side effects is hair loss, irregardless of thyroid...

  • t3 and t4 in range, TSH low

    May 10, 2019, 7:16 a.m.

    Hi all, Just wondered if anyone has had the same thing happen, t3 and t4 are both in range and have been...

  • Change in medication

    May 8, 2019, 9:34 a.m.

    Hello - I've not taken Cytomel (and am not a doc), but based on the prescribing info, it looks like the...

  • Change in medication

    May 7, 2019, 2:28 a.m.

    I am not a doctor, nor would I suggest ignoring your physicians advice, but in reviewing the warnings on...

  • Change in medication

    May 6, 2019, 5:21 p.m.

    So I have had Graves' disease since 2012 and it took about a year to find my sweet spot with a combination of...

  • Graves Disease and hair loss

    May 2, 2019, 6:26 p.m.

    Hello and welcome - We're fellow patients here, so can't give advice on medications. In general, the active...

  • Graves Disease and hair loss

    May 2, 2019, 11:14 a.m.

    Hi everyone, DX with Graves in November, on methimazole since December. all labs were within...

  • Thyroidoctomy after RAI ??

    April 30, 2019, 4:04 p.m.

    RAI can start the eye disease in some people. Yet sometimes the eye disease occurs after thyroidectomy, altho...

  • Thyroidoctomy after RAI ??

    April 30, 2019, 3:18 p.m.

    Thnx for ur reply So u think that thyroidoctomy for me now is useless ?? My thyroid now is dead and my...

  • Thyroidoctomy after RAI ??

    April 30, 2019, 8:30 a.m.

    You can have a thyroidectomy after RAI, and there is some suggestion of RAI after thyroidectomy. The object...

Questions? Problems? Please contact us at [email protected] or 877-643-3123.

GDATF on Facebook

Support the GDATF and become a member today!

© 2019 Graves' Disease & Thyroid Foundation