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Graves Disease – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Graves disease is known as an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones and is called hyperthyroidism. Though many disorders can cause hyperthyroidism, graves’ disease is a very common one. It is an autoimmune condition. This means that the foreign invaders mistakenly attack the healthy cells, thinking that they are affecting human health which in turn causes this disease.

Our thyroid hormones can affect different body systems. So, the signs and symptoms related to the grave’s disease can be very extensive and can affect our overall health. This disease is commonly observed in women especially near the age of 40but can affect men too. However, if avoided or left untreated, it can turn into some serious consequences.

Graves disease was earlier known as “exophthalmic goiter” but now named as graves disease after sir robert graves, an irish doctor described this condition in 1835.

The primary aim of the treatment of this disease is to prevent the overproduction of thyroid hormones and to reduce the severity of its symptoms.

Graves Disease Symptoms


Some common signs and symptoms of graves disease are listed below:

  • Anxiety and irritation.
  • Trembling of hands and fingers.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat (which is known as “palpitations”)
  • Thickness and redness in the skin mostly on the shins or at the top of the feet (this is termed as “graves dermopathy”)
  • Fatigue
  • Bulging eyes (known as “graves ophthalmopathy”)
  • Change in menstrual cycles
  • Enlargement of your thyroid gland
  • Heart failure
  • Increased sweating
  • Weight loss (without any change in the diet)
  • Nervousness

What is graves ophthalmopathy?

In graves ophthalmopathy, inflammation and other activities of our immune system affect the muscles and other tissues around our eyes. It is found that about 30 percent of people suffering from the graves disease show some symptoms of this condition called ‘graves ophthalmopathy’.

Some resulting signs and symptoms of graves ophthalmopathy include:

  • Swollen eyes ( which is termed as exophthalmos)
  • Dusty sensation in the eyes
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Vision loss
  • Light sensitivity

What is graves dermopathy?

Graves dermopathy is a condition in which our skin becomes thick and red. Mostly the shins or the top of the feet.

Graves Disease Causes

Graves disease affects our thyroid gland which is a butterfly-shaped organ at the base of our neck below adam’s apple. It is considered as an important part of the hormonal system or endocrine. It controls our metabolism by releasing hormones into the bloodstream.

Hormones released by the thyroid gland helps in keeping the body’s metabolism running at the right rate. The more hormones it releases, the more quickly metabolism runs. Generally, a chemical called thyroid-stimulating hormone (tsh) produced in a part of the brain which is called the pituitaryteaches the thyroid about how much to produce.

In graves disease, our immune system produces antibodies that activate the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor, deceiving the thyroid to make so many hormones which help in speeding up the metabolism and causes the symptoms mentioned below.

However, some research studies have found a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Genetic: if some of your family members have suffered from this disease, it is likely that the chances of developing this condition in your body increases.

Environmental: if you are having a habit of smoking, this can also develop graves disease in your body.

Some people who have chances of increased risk of this disease include:

  • Women who have recently given birth to a child or are still pregnant.
  • Individuals suffering from emotional or physical stress.
  • Individuals with other autoimmune diseases.

Graves Disease Treatment

graves-disease-treatmentThere are diverse options in the treatment of graves disease amongst which the majority of them are aimed at obstructing the overproduction of thyroid hormones by targeting the thyroid gland and others aim to reduce the symptoms. Some of the treatment strategies for graves disease are listed below:

Anti-thyroid medication

  • It is the most common and utilized treatment strategy for graves disease.
  • Three common drugs target the thyroid, these are propylthiouracil, methimazole, and carbimazole.
  • Anti-thyroid medications help in preventing the thyroid gland from producing a large number of hormones by blocking the oxidation of iodine in the thyroid gland.
  • These symptoms generally get recovered within 4-6 weeks of starting the medication. However, the medication may continue for 12-18 months to treat the condition properly so that it does not return.

Radioactive iodine therapy

  • This therapy has been used to treat the grave’s disease since the 1940s and is still famous because it’s very effective.
  • Radioactive iodine is an oral method that targets the thyroid gland directly. Iodine is used by the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones. When medical tests are taken, the radioactive iodine builds up in the thyroid gland and slowly destroys the overactive thyroid cells which in turn, results in reducing the size of the thyroid gland. Although, some people have experienced a risk of thyroid cancer after this therapy, according to a study, there is no danger at all. There are very fewer chances of secondary cancers that may result from this type of treatment.

Beta blockers

  • Beta-blockers are generally advised by the doctors to treat heart problems and the problem of hypertension. They block the effects of adrenaline and other related compounds and can help in reducing the symptoms of graves disease.
  • People suffering from the grave’s disease may be more sensitive to adrenaline which can also result in some general problems like sweating, shivering, increased heart rate, and anxiety.
  • However, there are chances of some side effects which may occur due to the interaction of different types of drugs with one another.


  • Because other types of treatments have helped in treating this disease, surgery is no longer that much common nowadays but is still used if by chance the treatment is unsuccessful in treating the problem. The biggest advantage of surgery is that it is the fastest, most compatible, and permanent way of restoring the normal thyroid hormone levels.

When to consult the doctor?

Several medical conditions may lead to the signs and symptoms related to the grave’s disease. However, you should immediately consult your doctor if you are experiencing any problem related to this disease to get a precise diagnosis done. Search for emergency care if you find any heart-related signs or symptoms like rapid or irregular heartbeat or vision loss.