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Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that leads to overactivity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). It is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the thyroid gland, causing the gland to produce too much thyroid hormone. Graves disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism and occurs most often in women over age 20. However, the disorder may occur at any age and can affect males as well.
More common signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism due to Graves' disease include irritability, a fast and irregular heartbeat, hand tremors, diarrhea, increased sweating, trouble sleeping, and weight loss. Some people develop abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland ( goiter). Women with Graves' disease may have irregular menstrual periods. In some cases, Graves' disease causes other problems such as Graves’ dermopathy (a condition marked by red, swollen skin), various eye abnormalities (such as bulging eyes, vision problems, pain, or swelling), emotional or behavioral changes, heart-related complications, or bone problems (such as osteoporosis).
Treatment for hyperthyroidism and its symptoms may include radioiodine therapy, antithyroid drugs, and/or thyroid surgery. Most people eventually develop hypothyroidism after treatment for hyperthryoidism; this is treated with a daily synthetic thyroid hormone pill. Graves' dermopathy may be treated with corticosteroids and/or compression wraps. Eye problems may not improve after thyroid treatment and may be treated separately with eyedrops, rituximab, or rarely, surgery or radiation therapy.
Last updated on 05-01-20
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