Graves’ Disease: All That You Need to Know

October 16, 2019

Graves' Disease
Graves’ disease is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States. It is known to affect an estimated 2 to 3 percent of the world’s population. Read on to learn more about Graves’ disease.

What Is Graves’ Disease?

Graves’ disease is an immune system dysfunction that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones. This disease makes your immune system attack your thyroid gland, causing it to produce excess thyroid hormone.

What Are the Early Symptoms of Graves’ Disease?

Some of the common symptoms of Graves’ disease include:

  • Enlarged thyroid gland or goiter
  • Fast and irregular heartbeat
  • Nervousness or irritability
  • Heat intolerance
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trembling hands
  • Diarrhea or frequent bowel movements
  • Bulging eyeballs called exophthalmos
  • Graves’ dermopathy which causes thick red skin on the shins (rare)

What Is the Main Cause of Graves’ Disease?

The exact cause of Graves’ disease is still unknown to scientists. However, this disease occurs when the body’s immune system produces an antibody called TSI (thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin) that binds itself to thyroid cells. TSI acts like TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and causes the thyroid gland to produce excess thyroid hormone.

Research also suggests that Graves’ disease can be caused due to various genetic and environmental factors. People with other autoimmune disorders, pregnant women, women who have just given birth, and individuals under physical and emotional stress are also susceptible to Graves’ disease.

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Health Risks Associated with Untreated Graves’ Disease

Untreated Graves’ disease can lead to thyrotoxicosis. A more severe form of thyrotoxicosis called thyroid storm is a life-threatening condition that can cause weak and brittle bones, heart problems, and even death. If you are pregnant and your Graves’ disease is untreated, you have a risk of having preeclampsia, placental abruption, preterm birth, miscarriage, and even stillbirth.

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What Is the Best Treatment for Graves’ Disease?

Your endocrinologist will suggest the best treatment based on your case study. The treatment options for this disease include:

Antithyroid Medications

These drugs prevent the thyroid gland from producing excess thyroid hormones. While these medicines are effective in relieving the symptoms within one or two weeks, the disease may return if the drug is stopped.

Radioactive Iodine (RAI)

Some doctors prefer radioactive iodine treatment over antithyroid medications. This is because medicines do not provide a long-term solution to hyperthyroidism related to this disease.


Surgery may be considered a treatment option if patients react to antithyroid medications or radioactive iodine. Surgery can be the only option for people who cannot undergo other treatments.

If you want to learn more about Graves’ disease or its treatment options from our experts, call us at (843) 572-1600 to schedule an appointment.