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What Is Graves’ Disease?

GravesGraves’ Disease, named after Sir Robert Graves, is a type of thyroid issue. It was first identified by Graves in the early 19th century, and it’s one of the more common types of thyroid issues. Graves’ Disease is the top cause of the thyroid producing too many hormones—hyperthyroidism. Fortunately, once it has been diagnosed, it’s actually pretty easy to treat, and it often goes into complete remission or even vanishes completely. However, Graves’ Disease can also be serious and can lead to death if it’s not treated.


What causes Graves’ Disease? The problem is when the body’s immune system malfunctions. The system then starts to release abnormal antibodies. These antibodies are seen by the body as TSH, a special type of thyroid-stimulating hormone that the brain releases through the pituitary gland. These abnormal antibodies make the thyroid create more and more hormones, flooding the body’s system.

Why does the body start making these abnormal antibodies? No one is quite certain. Heredity may play a part of it. According to studies, twins have a higher chance of getting Graves’ Disease if one has it. Women also seem to have a higher chance of coming down with the disease.


One of the earliest signs of Graves’ Disease is that the eyes become swollen. This causes the eyeballs to actually protrude a bit from the sockets. However, this doesn’t affect everyone with Graves’ Disease, and the severity of this swelling has no connection to how severe Graves’ Disease affects a person.

It’s possible that the swelling can be so bad that it can put so much pressure on the optic nerve that it causes partial blindness. The eye muscles, which may not be able to move that much due to the inflammation, can also become weak and lose their ability to move that much, leading to double vision.

In very rare cases, those with Graves’ Disease will develop what’s called pretibial myxedema, which is a type of skin condition. The skin on your shins will start to thicken, develop lumps, and turn a red color. This condition doesn’t hurt that much, and it’s not very serious.


Diagnosing Graves’ Disease can be done with a simple blood test. The doctor examines the T-3 and T-4 hormones to determine if the amount in the body is normal or if it’s higher than it should be.


Graves’ Disease can be treated with a number of different medications, including beta-blockers. Another treatment is to actually bombard the thyroid with radioactive iodine. This destroys some of the gland’s cells, slowing the production of cells. This treatment has no side effects or pain, although those who take it should avoid contact with children and women who are pregnant.


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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, or cure any diseases.