Graves Disease Graves Disease
National Endocrine and Metabolic Disease Information Service

What is Graves disease? The thyroid glands production of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) is triggered by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is made by the pituitary gland. Graves disease, also known as toxic diffuse goiter, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. Hyperthyroidism is 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, and cholesterol levels. Thyroid hormone production is regulated by another hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is made by the pituitary gland located in the brain. Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the bodys immune system acts against its own healthy cells and tissues. 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. The diagnosis and treatment of Graves disease is often performed by an endocrinologista doctor who specializes in the bodys hormone-secreting glands. What are the symptoms of Graves disease? People with Graves disease may have some of the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as nervousness or irritability fatigue or muscle weakness heat intolerance trouble sleeping hand tremors rapid and irregular heartbeat frequent bowel movements or diarrhea weight loss goiter, which is an enlarged thyroid that may cause the neck to look swollen In addition, the eyes of people with Graves disease may appear enlarged because their eyelids are retracted and their eyes bulge out from the eye sockets. This condition is called Graves ophthalmopathy. A small number of people with Graves disease also experience thickening and reddening of the skin on their shins. This usually painless problem is called pretibial myxedema or Graves dermopathy.