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Graves' Disease

What is Graves' Disease?

Graves' disease is a disease characterized by the immune system mistakenly attacking the thyroid gland. Graves' disease is classified as an autoimmune disease.

In Graves' disease, your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland. However, instead of destroying the gland, an antibody called TRAb stimulates the thyroid to make excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. The excess production of thyroid hormone causes hyperthyroidism.

Graves' disease is also called diffuse thyrotoxic goiter.

What is the Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the back of the neck below the Adam's apple. The thyroid consists of two lobes. The lobes are wrapped around the windpipe. The thyroid produces thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism. Regulation of metabolism is critical in controlling mood, weight and mental and physical energy levels.

Thyroid disorders caused by overproduction of thyroid hormones are called hyperthyroidism, and underproduction of these hormones is known as hypothyroidism.

What Causes Graves' Disease?

The exact cause of Graves' disease is unknown.

Symptoms of Graves' Disease

The most common symptoms are:

  • Protruding eyes
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Weight loss
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Increased appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Heat intolerance
  • Increased sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Double vision
  • Eye irritation
  • Breast enlargement in men
  • Tremor
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Menstrual irregularities in women
  • Goiter

Can Graves' Disease be Treated?

Yes. Treatments are aimed to control the over activity of the thyroid gland. Some common treatments are: surgery, replacement thyroid hormones, beta-blockers to treat symptoms of rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety.

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