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Graves Disease
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Graves' disease
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DIABETES AND ENDOCRINE SYSTEM

Endocrine System

Graves disease, named after Robert J. Graves, MD, circa 1830s, is an autoimmune disease characterized by hyperthyroidism due to circulating autoantibodies. Thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSIs) bind to and activate the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) receptors, causing the thyroid gland to grow and the thyroid follicles to increase synthesis of thyroid hormone. Graves disease, along with Hashimoto thyroiditis, is classified as an autoimmune thyroid disorder. Graves' disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism. It occurs when your immune system, which normally protects your body from bacteria and viruses, mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland and causes it to overproduce the thyroid hormone, thyroxine. This autoimmune response can also affect the tissue behind your eyes (Graves' ophthalmopathy) and the skin on your lower legs and feet (Graves' dermopathy).

When you have too much thyroid hormone in your system, your body's metabolism rate can increase by 60 percent to 100 percent, because thyroxine regulates your cells' metabolism. A higher metabolism can lead to a number of health problems, such as an irregular heartbeat or anxiety.

Graves' disease is rarely life-threatening. Although it may develop at any age and in either men or women, Graves' disease is far more common in women and usually begins between 20 and 40 years of age.

There's no way to stop your immune system from attacking the thyroid gland, but treatments can decrease the production of thyroxine.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism may include:

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat

  • A fine tremor of your hands or fingers

  • An increase in perspiration

  • Sensitivity to heat

  • Weight loss, despite normal food intake

  • Brittle hair

  • Enlargement of your thyroid gland (goiter)

  • Light menstrual periods

  • Frequent bowel movements

It's also fairly common for your eyes to experience mild signs and symptoms of a condition known as Graves' ophthalmopathy. In Graves' ophthalmopathy, your eyeball pushes out past its protective orbit. This occurs as tissues and muscles behind your eye swell and cause your eyeball to move forward. Because your eye is so far forward, the front surface of your eye can become dry. The condition may cause these mild signs and symptoms:

  • Excess tearing and sensation of grit or sand in either or both eyes

  • Reddened or inflamed eyes

  • Widening of the space between your eyelids

  • Swelling of the lids and tissues around the eyes

  • Light sensitivity

Less often, Graves' ophthalmopathy can produce these signs and symptoms:

  • Ulcers on the cornea

  • Double vision

  • Limited eye movements

  • Blurred or reduced vision

Eye problems and the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism usually appear within 18 months of each other. Cigarette smokers with Graves' disease are more likely to have eye problems. Another uncommon sign of Graves' disease is reddening and swelling of the skin, often on your shins and on the top of your feet, called Graves' dermopathy.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
In no event will The DrEddyClinic.com be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this web site.

 


 



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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:56 AM