Graves' disease

Graves' disease is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). Although a number of disorders may result in hyperthyroidism, Graves' disease is a common cause.

Because thyroid hormones affect a number of different body systems, signs and symptoms associated with Graves' disease can be wide ranging and significantly influence your overall well-being. Although Graves' disease may affect anyone, it's more common among women and before the age of 40.

The primary treatment goals are to inhibit the overproduction of thyroid hormones and lessen the severity of symptoms.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Common signs and symptoms of Graves' disease include:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • A fine tremor of your hands or fingers
  • Heat sensitivity and an increase in perspiration or warm, moist skin
  • Weight loss, despite normal eating habits
  • Enlargement of your thyroid gland (goiter)
  • Change in menstrual cycles
  • Erectile dysfunction or reduced libido
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Bulging eyes (Graves' ophthalmopathy)
  • Thick, red skin usually on the shins or tops of the feet (Graves' dermopathy)
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)

Graves' ophthalmopathy

About 30 percent of people with Graves' disease show some signs and symptoms of a condition known as Graves' ophthalmopathy. In Graves' ophthalmopathy, inflammation and other immune system events affect muscles and other tissues around your eyes. The resulting signs and symptoms may include:

  • Bulging eyes (exophthalmos)
  • Gritty sensation in the eyes
  • Pressure or pain in the eyes
  • Puffy or retracted eyelids
  • Reddened or inflamed eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Double vision
  • Vision loss

Graves' dermopathy

An uncommon manifestation of Graves' disease, called Graves' dermopathy, is the reddening and thickening of the skin, most often on your shins or the tops of your feet.

When to see a doctor

A number of medical conditions can cause the signs and symptoms associated with Graves' disease. See your doctor if you experience any potential Graves-related problems to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis.

Seek emergency care if you're experiencing heart-related signs and symptoms, such as a rapid or irregular heartbeat, or if you develop vision loss.

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